Whole-body carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) content, and stable-isotope composition (13C:12C and 15N:14N), were followed during metamorphosis of bonefish (Albula sp.) larvae (leptocephali). Metamorphosing larvae depend entirely on endogenous carbon compounds (some of which contain N and P) as an energy source. Two fundamental questions are (1) Do the demands of extensive tissue remodeling during metamorphosis require the efficient retention of N and P during the catabolism of carbon compounds? (2) What effect does the lack of feeding have on stable-isotope composition? Our results showed that both C and N decreased by ~35 to 40%, reflecting the utilization of neutral lipid (triacylglycerols) and N-containing compounds (phosphatidylethanolamine and keratan sulfate glycosaminoglycan) as energy sources, and indicating that larvae have little or no capacity to retain N. Evidence suggested that collagen breakdown, measured as a loss of hydroxyproline content, also contributed to N loss. Stable-isotope ratios, expressed as δ13C and δ15N, showed no statistically significant differences in early and advanced metamorphosing larvae. In contrast to C and N, phosphorus was conserved during metamorphosis and most probably is utilized in the increased bone mineralization occurring in advanced larvae. We show, however, that advanced larvae are P-limited and that normal ossification is dependent upon a supply of exogenous P obtained after the resumption of feeding. The N:P ratio of 12.3 in early larvae decreased to 8.1 in advanced larvae owing to the conservation of P as N was lost. The mean δ15N value in early metamorphic larvae (11.6‰) is consistent with results from other studies, and provides further support for the view that premetamorphic leptocephali feed at a very low trophic level.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science