Freshwater organisms synthesize a wide variety of fatty acids (FAs); however, the ability to synthesize and/or subsequently modify a particular FA is not universal, making it possible to use certain FAs as biomarkers. Herein we document the occurrence of unusual FAs (polymethylene-interrupted fatty acids; PMI-FAs) in select freshwater organisms in the Laurentian Great Lakes. We did not detect PMI-FAs in: (a) natural seston from Lake Erie and Hamilton Harbor (Lake Ontario), (b) various species of laboratory-cultured algae including a green alga (Scenedesmus obliquus), two cyanobacteria (Aphanizomenon flos-aquae and Synechococystis sp.), two diatoms (Asterionella formosa, Diatoma elongatum) and a chrysophyte (Dinobryon cylindricum) or, (c) zooplankton (Daphnia spp., calanoid or cyclopoid copepods) from Lake Ontario, suggesting that PMI-FAs are not substantively incorporated into consumers at the phytoplankton-zooplankton interface. However, these unusual FAs comprised 4-6% of total fatty acids (on a dry tissue weight basis) of native fat mucket (Lampsilis siliquoidea) and plain pocketbook (L. cardium) mussels and in invasive zebra (Dreissena polymorpha) and quagga (D. bugensis) mussels. We were able to clearly partition Great Lakes' mussels into three separate groups (zebra, quagga, and native mussels) based solely on their PMI-FA profiles. We also provide evidence for the trophic transfer of PMI-FAs from mussels to various fishes in Lakes Ontario and Michigan, further underlining the potential usefulness of PMI-FAs for tracking the dietary contribution of mollusks in food web and contaminant-fate studies.

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Keywords Biomarkers, Fatty acids, Great Lakes, Invasive species, Lake whitefish, Mussels
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Journal Journal of Great Lakes Research
Mezek, T. (Tadej), Sverko, E. (Ed), Rudy, M.D. (Martina D.), Zaruk, D. (Donna), Capretta, A. (Alfredo), Hebert, C.E, … Arts, M.T. (Michael T.). (2011). Polymethylene-interrupted fatty acids: Biomarkers for native and exotic mussels in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 37(2), 289–297. doi:10.1016/j.jglr.2011.03.008