The objective of this study was to evaluate the combined effects of thermal acclimation and n-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (n-3 HUFA) content of the food source on the aerobic capacities of fish in a thermal changing environment. The model used was the golden grey mullet Liza aurata, a species of high ecological importance in temperate coastal areas. For four months, fish were exposed to two food sources with contrasting n-3 HUFA contents (4.8% ecosapentaenoic acid EPA + docosahexaenoic acid DHA on the dry matter DM basis vs. 0.2% EPA+DHA on DM) combined with two acclimation temperatures (12°C vs. 20°C). The four experimental conditions were LH12, LH20, HH12 and HH20. Each group was then submitted to a thermal challenge consisting of successive exposures to five temperatures (9°C, 12°C, 16°C, 20°C, 24°C). At each temperature, the maximal and minimal metabolic rates, metabolic scope, and the maximum swimming speed were measured. Results showed that the cost of maintenance of basal metabolic activities was particularly higher when n-3 HUFA food content was low. Moreover, fish exposed to high acclimation temperature combined with a low n-3 HUFA dietary level (LH20) exhibited a higher aerobic scope, as well as a greater expenditure of energy to reach the same maximum swimming speed as other groups. This suggested a reduction of the amount of energy available to perform other physiological functions. This study is the first to show that the impact of lowering n-3 HUFA food content is exacerbated for fish previously acclimated to a warmer environment. It raises the question of the consequences of longer and warmer summers that have already been recorded and are still expected in temperate areas, as well as the pertinence of the lowering n-3 HUFA availability in the food web expected with global change, as a factor affecting marine organisms and communities.
Vagner, M., Lacoue-Labarthe, T., Infante, J. L. Z., Mazurais, D., Dubillot, E., Le Delliou, H., … Lefrançois, C. (2015). Depletion of essential fatty acids in the food source affects aerobic capacities of the golden grey mullet Liza aurata in a warming seawater context. PLoS ONE, 10(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0126489