Seasonal lipid dynamics in dominant Antarctic copepods: Energy for overwintering or reproduction?
Abstract Copepodite stages V and females of four dominant Antarctic species of calanoid copepods were collected during various expeditions to the eastern Weddell Sea in mid-winter, late winter to early spring, summer and autumn. Analyses of total lipid content and sexual maturity showed some general similarities between species concerning the seasonal cycle of energy reserves and gonad maturation, but also revealed important interspecific differences in the life histories of these copepods. Calanus propinquus and Metridia gerlachei exhibited a seasonal lipid pattern with maxima in autumn and lipid minima during spring. Lipid decrease in the females usually coincided with gonad maturation, which proceeded well before the onset of phytoplankton production. This basic pattern was not as clearly discernible in the females of Calanoides acutus and Rhincalanus gigas . In the Weddell Sea, C. propinquus and C. acutus reached much higher lipid levels and seemed to rely more on internal energy depots than did M. gerlachei and R. gigas . The specific timing of reproduction in the Weddell Sea also differed among the species. M. gerlachei had the longest reproductive period, probably extending from September to March, followed by C. propinquus (October–February) and C. acutus (November–March). In contrast, R. gigas seemed to reproduce only from late December to February in the eastern Weddell Sea. Our findings emphasize the importance of lipid reserves for fueling reproductive processes before the spring phytoplankton bloom becomes available. Only a smaller portion of the accumulated energy stores appears to be utilized for metabolic maintenance during the food-limited winter period.
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