Lipid biomarkers reveal geographical differences in food supply to the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinia)

L. A. Dodds, K. D. Black, H. Orr, Murray Roberts

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    85 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite its importance as an ecological engineer, little is known about the feeding ecology of the widespread reef framework-forming cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa. This is the first study to compare lipid signatures of L. pertusa from different areas in the North Atlantic using samples from 2 sites in the eastern Atlantic and 2 seamounts in the western Atlantic. Lipid samples were collected in February, May, July and November from the Mingulay reef complex off western Scotland, but no clear seasonal pattern was observed. High lipid content and large wax ester fractions were recorded from all sites, with the highest values recorded at the shallowest site (Mingulay). Here the prevalence of copepod lipid biomarkers - monounsaturated fatty acids 20:1(n-9) and 22:1(n-11) and their fatty alcohols - indicates L. pertusa feeds predominantly on calanoid copepods. At deeper offshore sites, the abundance of the fatty acid 18:1(n-9) and fatty alcohol 16:0 suggest a significant dietary input from non-calanoid copepods. Our results imply that the shallow Mingulay site is likely to receive a greater input of fresh surficial material and a higher abundance of herbivorous calanoid copepods, while at the deeper sites, carnivorous or omnivorous non-calanoid copepods are likely to be more abundant. L. pertusa therefore appears to be an opportunistic feeder capable of taking a variety of zooplankton prey. Further investigation is required to assess site-specific dependence on prey sources. © Inter-Research 2009.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)113-124
    Number of pages12
    JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • Copepods
    • Deep-sea coral
    • Ecosystem engineer
    • Fatty acid
    • Feeding
    • MUFA
    • PUFA
    • Trophic level


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