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Fish resist temptation from junk food: State-dependent diet choice in reproductive Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) facing seasonal fluxes of lipid-rich prey

Citation

van Deurs, Mikael; Persson, Anders; Jorgensen, Christian (2021), Fish resist temptation from junk food: State-dependent diet choice in reproductive Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) facing seasonal fluxes of lipid-rich prey, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.sf7m0cg7n

Abstract

In ecological sciences, animal diets are often simplified to “resources” or “caloric quantities”. However, in the present study, we investigated the optimal foraging strategy of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) when both macro- and micro-nutritional requirements are accounted for. Proteins cannot be synthesized from fatty acids, so the proteins for gonad development must come from other dietary sources. In addition, micronutrients are required in smaller quantities. For example, for cod, arachidonic acid (ARA) acts as a micronutrient precursor for prostaglandins, which is important for reproduction. We formulated a dynamic state-dependent model to make predictions about optimal diet choice and foraging behavior. We applied the model to a case study in the strait between Denmark and Sweden. The model predicted that energy acquired from dietary protein should be twice that acquired from lipids, with a small increase in the lipid requirements when gonads are growing. The model also predicted that the “energy sparing effect of lipids” made it beneficial to engage in risky foraging activity to supplement a lean diet with a little bit of fat. When we re-constructing the model to also optimize ARA uptake, the cod consumed relatively more ARA-rich crabs in the months prior to spawning, despite the otherwise poor energetic value of this prey. In support of the model predictions, field observations indicated that lipid stores reached a peak shortly after the arrival of the lipid-rich migrating herring and the fatty acid signal of these herring were evident in the liver of nearly all cod. Three month later, only half of the cod contained the herring-derived fatty acid signal, supporting the predicted shift in prey type prior to spawning. From these model predictions and field observations, we conclude that, also in the wild, nutritional requirements can be at least as important as pure energy acquisition.