Steller sea lion, fasting, physiology, lipids, fatty acids, metabolism
Steller sea lions, the largest Otariid, fast during their breeding season; during this time they refrain from ingesting food for a period of 12-43 days. Fasting, while undertaking an extremely energetically demanding activity (breeding and pupping), requires specific physiological adaptations. This study examined the physiological response to fasting of two age classes, juveniles and sub-adults, during the breeding and non-breeding seasons to determine how these animals utilize lipids and the pattern of fatty acid mobilization from lipid stores during fasting. Four juveniles and 5 sub-adults were fasted for one and two weeks, respectively, and blood samples were collected approximately every 3 days for lipid analysis. The concentrations of plasma non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) were analyzed spectrophotometrically. Serum fatty acid composition was analyzed using gas chromatography (GC) and their individual weight percent (wt %) were correlated with their peak retention time and calculated using the area under each peak. Sixty-nine fatty acids were quantified from each sample. However, only those with concentrations above 0.2 wt. % were included in the analysis. Sub-adult samples were grouped on a percent mass loss basis (0%, 7-8% and 15% mass loss) to facilitate comparison with the juveniles. These data represent the total lipid fatty acid composition of each blood sample. Relative lipid concentration was calculated by multiplying the total lipid fatty acid compositional analysis (wt %) by the NEFA concentrations measured in that respective blood sample. Plasma NEFA concentrations in juvenile Steller sea lions ranged from 1.2 [plus or minus] 0.51 mM to 3.7 [plus or minus] 0.69 during fasting and was within the range of fasting phocids. Concentrations of NEFAs in the sub-adult Steller sea lions ranged from 1.00 mM up to 9.70 mM and were generally higher than fasting phocids. The wt % of only one fatty acid (20:0) was significantly different between the breeding and non-breeding season in fasting juveniles. However, the wt % of seven fatty acids changed significantly during fasting in the juveniles and five of these were most significant in separating the beginning and end of the fasts using principal components analysis. In contrast, the wt % of 10 fatty acids were significantly different during the breeding and non-breeding season fasts of the sub-adults. Additionally, the wt % of 10 fatty acids changed significantly during fasting in the sub-adults and four of these (16:1n-7, 18:2n-6, 20:0, and 20:1n-9) were most significant in separating the beginning and end of the fasts using principal components analysis. These trends reveal the physiological differences between the juvenile and sub-adult Steller sea lions and suggest that the sub-adults may be better physiologically and metabolically adapted to fast than the juveniles in this study.
Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Arts and Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Berman, Michelle Lea, "Effects Of Food Deprivation On Blood Lipid Concentration And Composition In Steller Sea Lions (eumetopias Jubatus)" (2005). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 431.