Effect of a Low‐Fat Diet on Body Composition and Blubber Fatty Acids of Captive Juvenile Harp Seals (Phoca groenlandica)
Physiological and Biochemical Zoology
We investigated the effects of a change from a high-fat diet to a low-fat diet of differing fatty acid (FA) composition on the body composition and blubber FA of five captive juvenile harp seals. Seals that had been maintained for 1 yr on a diet of Atlantic herring (≥9% fat) were switched to a diet of Atlantic pollock (1.7% fat) for 30 d. On days 0, 14, and 30, mass and body composition (using isotope dilution) were measured, and blubber biopsies (5 mm) were taken for FA analysis. cm # 6 Fat
... ounted for 38%-49% of body mass at the start of the experiment. When switched to the pollock diet, and despite food intakes averaging 6.5 kg/d (32.3 MJ/d), body fat declined by an average of 6.4 kg or by 32% over the 30-d experiment. In contrast, body protein increased in direct relation to protein intake ( , ). Despite substantial loss of body 2 r = 0.836 P = 0.030 fat, blubber FA signature changed significantly to reflect the changes in dietary intake of FA, and the deposition of FA was quantifiably predictable. Our results suggest that young growing phocids are unable to maintain body fat stores on low-fat diets even when protein intakes are high. This may have significant implications for juvenile pinniped survival in the wild. In addition, turnover and deposition of dietary FA in blubber takes place in nonfattening seals.