Conversion efficiency of α-linolenic acid to omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids in aerial insectivore chicks

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2018
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Lawrence, Peter
Winkler, David W.
Flecker, Alexander S.
Brenna, J. Thomas
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The Journal of Experimental Biology. Company of Biologists. 2018, 221(3), jeb165373. ISSN 0022-0949. eISSN 1477-9145. Available under: doi: 10.1242/jeb.165373
Zusammenfassung

Food availability and quality are both critical for growing young animals. In nature, swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and other aerial insectivores feed on both aquatic insects, which are rich in omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs), and terrestrial insects, which contain considerably lower amounts of omega-3 HUFAs. Carnivorous mammals and fishes must obtain omega-3 HUFAs from their diet, as they have lost the capacity to convert the precursor omega-3 α-linolenic acid (ALA) into omega-3 HUFAs. Thus, the relative value of aquatic versus terrestrial insects depends not only on the fatty acid composition of the prey but also on the capacity of consumers to convert ALA into omega-3 HUFAs. We used a combination of stable-isotope-labeled fatty acid tracers to ask whether, and how efficiently, tree swallows can deposit newly synthesized omega-3 HUFAs into tissue. Our data show for the first time that tree swallows can convert ALA into omega-3 HUFAs deposited in liver and skeletal muscle. However, high tree swallow demand for omega-3 HUFAs combined with low ALA availability in natural terrestrial foods may strain their modest conversion ability. This suggests that while tree swallows can synthesize omega-3 HUFAs de novo, omega-3 HUFAs are ecologically essential nutrients in natural systems. Our findings thus provide mechanistic support for our previous findings and the importance of omega-3 HUFA-rich aquatic insects for tree swallows and most likely other aerial insectivores with similar niches.

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Fachgebiet (DDC)
570 Biowissenschaften, Biologie
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Tree swallows, HUFA, ALA, Energy, Nutrients, Compound-specific stable isotopes, Carbon stable isotope tracer
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ISO 690TWINING, Cornelia W., Peter LAWRENCE, David W. WINKLER, Alexander S. FLECKER, J. Thomas BRENNA, 2018. Conversion efficiency of α-linolenic acid to omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids in aerial insectivore chicks. In: The Journal of Experimental Biology. Company of Biologists. 2018, 221(3), jeb165373. ISSN 0022-0949. eISSN 1477-9145. Available under: doi: 10.1242/jeb.165373
BibTex
@article{Twining2018Conve-51808,
  year={2018},
  doi={10.1242/jeb.165373},
  title={Conversion efficiency of α-linolenic acid to omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids in aerial insectivore chicks},
  number={3},
  volume={221},
  issn={0022-0949},
  journal={The Journal of Experimental Biology},
  author={Twining, Cornelia W. and Lawrence, Peter and Winkler, David W. and Flecker, Alexander S. and Brenna, J. Thomas},
  note={Article Number: jeb165373}
}
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