Lipids and Fatty Acids of the Benthic Marine Harpacticoid copepod Heteropsyllus nunni Coull During Diapause: A Contrast to Pelagic Copepods

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Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Many free-living copepods produce and store lipids prior to entering diapause (long-term dormancy). Heteropsyllus nunni Coull is the only marine harpacticoid copepod known to undergo any form of diapause. This study presents the first information on the types of lipids and fatty acids produced for long-term diapause in this benthic species. Sexually immature adults of H. nunni undergo diapause within a pliable self-made cyst. Prior to entering diapause (which lasts 3–4 months), they produce and store large amounts of orange lipid. The lipids apparently are utilized during diapause. Although some residual lipids remain, chiefly around the gonads, after the copepods emerge from their cysts, the lipid stores are visibly reduced. Typically, the copepods mate and produce eggs within 48 h after diapause is terminated. Light level and confocal laser scanning microscopy revealed that the lipid stores are distributed throughout the body in numerous oil droplets and not as a single oil sac, as seen in many marine calanoid copepods prior to overwintering (winter diapause). Transmission electron microscopy showed lipid spheres within the gut epithelium and large droplets of lipids stored extracellularly. Confocal laser scanning microscopy of copepods in pre-diapause, during diapause (encysted), post-diapause (recently excysted), and in reproductive condition, revealed that lipid stores are reduced following diapause, but are not totally absent. Analysis of lipid classes showed that H. nunni store predominantly wax esters/sterol esters (83% of total lipids) during diapause. The predominant lipid is most likely wax esters, as sterol esters typically are found only in small amounts in copepods. Fatty acid (FA) profiles of the copepods in diapause showed 16:0 to be most abundant followed by 16:1n-7 and 18:0; other FA occurred at concentrations n-3, 18:2n-6 and 20:4n-6, were found at concentrations H. nunni, obtained through dietary sources. The lipid classes and fatty acids present in H. nunni during diapause are compared to those of other copepods, some in a state of diapause and others not. It appears that lipid class and FA profiles are indicative of genetic makeup, type of diet or amount of food consumed prior to dormancy. Some classic paradigms of lipids and their association with copepod diapause are re-evaluated.

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Marine Biology





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