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Gonad development and fatty acid composition of Patella depressa Pennant (Gastropoda: Prosobranchia) populations with different patterns of spatial distribution, in exposed and sheltered sites

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  • Qh301 Biology


The present study examines the effect of shore exposure on the feeding performance (assessed by fatty acid analyses of the whole body) and gonad condition (stage of development and gonad somatic index, GSI) of Patella depressa populations. Male and female limpets were collected at exposed and sheltered sites, during winter and summer. The population at the exposed site was at a more advanced stage of gonad development, with a higher dispersion of gonad stages, both in winter and summer. Additionally, limpets from the exposed site, particularly the males, presented a higher GSI than the corresponding stage in the sheltered site. The quantitatively most important fatty acids were the saturated fatty acids (SFA) 16:0, 14:0, and 18:0, the monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) 18:1(n-7), 18:1(n-9), 16:1(n-7) and 20:1(n-9) and the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) 20:5(n-3) and 20:4(n-6). Females had a significantly higher fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) content (in summer and winter) and higher amounts of SFA and MUFA (in summer), which points to a higher degree of storage of neutral lipids in this sex. Male and female limpets at the exposed site had a significantly higher FAME, SFA, MUFA, PUFA and highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA) content than the corresponding sex in the sheltered site in summer. In addition, an inversion in the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)/arachidonic acid (ARA) and (n-3)/(n-6) ratios was observed in the sheltered site, as a result of the significantly higher levels of ARA and (n-6) fatty acids and lower amounts of EPA and (n-3) fatty acids found in the sheltered limpets. A high variability among patches in the fatty acid composition in the exposed site was found in winter, possibly related to the aggregation of limpets at this time. The differences found between limpets from the exposed and sheltered sites suggest qualitative and quantitative differences in their diets. Additionally, the results show that the spatial aggregation strategy adopted by limpets in sites of great wave and wind exposure does not affect their feeding and reproductive success, at least in the site examined here. In fact, more developed gonads, a higher GSI and an elevated FAME content was found in the exposed population. Possible factors are suggested and discussed to explain these observations.

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