Conserved fatty acid profiles and lipid metabolic pathways in a tropical reef fish exposed to ocean warming – An adaptation mechanism of tolerant species?

Carolina Madeira, Diana Madeira, Nemiah Ladd, Carsten J. Schubert, Mário S. Diniz, Catarina Vinagre, Miguel C. Leal

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Climate warming is causing rapid spatial expansion of ocean warm pools from equatorial latitudes towards the subtropics. Sedentary coral reef inhabitants in affected areas will thus be trapped in high temperature regimes, which may become the “new normal”. In this study, we used clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris as model organism to study reef fish mechanisms of thermal adaptation and determine how high temperature affects multiple lipid aspects that influence physiology and thermal tolerance. We exposed juvenile fish to two different experimental conditions, implemented over 28 days: average tropical water temperatures (26 °C, control) or average warm pool temperatures (30 °C). We then performed several analyses on fish muscle and liver tissues: i) total lipid content (%), ii) lipid peroxides, iii) fatty acid profiles, iv) lipid metabolic pathways, and v) weight as body condition metric. Results showed that lipid storage capacity in A. ocellaris was not affected by elevated temperature, even in the presence of lipid peroxides in both tissues assessed. Additionally, fatty acid profiles were unresponsive to elevated temperature, and lipid metabolic networks were consequently well conserved. Consistent with these results, we did not observe changes in fish weight at elevated temperature. There were, however, differences in fatty acid profiles between tissue types and over time. Liver showed enhanced α-linolenic and linoleic acid metabolism, which is an important pathway in stress response signaling and modulation on environmental changes. Temporal oscillations in fatty acid profiles are most likely related to intrinsic factors such as growth, which leads to the mobilization of energetic reserves between different tissues throughout time according to organism needs. Based on these results, we propose that the stability of fatty acid profiles and lipid metabolic pathways may be an important thermal adaptation feature of fish exposed to warming environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146738
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2021


  • Clownfish
  • Coral reefs
  • Fatty acid profiling
  • Lipid metabolic networks
  • Warming environments


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