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Marine Ecology Progress Series






A suite of lipid biomarkers plus compound-specific carbon isotopes of major sterols were determined in muscle tissues across increasing sizes of northern Neptune whelks Neptunea heros, developing eggs and potential diets to link trophic patterns, metabolism and carbon sources on the Chukchi Sea shelf. Analysis of primary prey included the northern clam Astarte borealis, water column particulate organic matter (POM) and surface sediments near the collection sites. Sterols specific to major algal groups along with algal-derived polyunsaturated fatty acids (C20:5n-3, C20:4n-3, C22:6n-3) in whelk muscle tissue reflected the importance of algal primary production to benthic consumers and its direct incorporation. Compound-specific carbon isotope values of cholesterol and Δ5,7-sterols present in foot muscle of N. heros also suggest a transition from scavenging/detrital feeding in smaller juveniles to predatory consumption by larger adults. Sexually mature adult female N. heros (shell lengths >10 cm) contained lower sterol concentrations compared to smaller whelks, which may reflect reduced consumption rates or lipid translocation during the annual reproductive cycle. Analysis of N. heros eggs at 3 developmental stages ranging from internal egg masses to mature egg cases showed significant transfer of algal-derived sterols and fatty acids which were conserved during egg maturation. The suite of individual lipid signatures and δ13C sterol values observed in N. heros suggest that the northern Neptune whelk relies on both direct lipid incorporation as well as metabolic modification of algal-derived food sources for sterol requirements that transition as animals mature and become predatory consumers.


© The authors 2021.

Open access under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License. Use, distribution, and reproduction are unrestricted. Authors and original publication must be credited.

Original Publication Citation

Harvey, H. R., McMahon, R., & Taylor, K. A. (2021). Lipid markers and compound-specific carbon isotopes as diet and biosynthesis reflectors in the northern Neptune whelk Neptunea heros. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 673, 69-84.


0000-0001-7746-7758 (Harvey), 0000-0001-6555-4723 (McMahon),


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