loading page

Linking brain size in wild stream-dwelling brown trout with dietary supply of omega-3 fatty acids
  • +1
  • Libor Závorka,
  • Magnus Lovén Wallerius,
  • Martin J. Kainz,
  • Johan Höjesjö
Libor Závorka

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Magnus Lovén Wallerius
Martin J. Kainz
Johan Höjesjö


1. Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LC-PUFA) are key structural lipids and their dietary intake is essential for brain development of virtually all vertebrates. The importance of n-3 LC-PUFA has been demonstrated in clinical and laboratory studies, but little is known about how differences in availability of n-3 LC-PUFA in natural prey influence brain development of wild consumers. The availability of n-3 LC-PUFA in the prey communities is driven by primary producers and it is therefore distributed heterogeneously, but predictably across ecosystems, being higher in aquatic than in terrestrial food webs. Consequently, the numerous consumers foraging on the interface of aquatic and terrestrial food webs can differ substantially in their intake of n-3 LC-PUFA, which may lead to in brain development, yet, this hypothesis still remains to be tested.
2. Here we use the previously demonstrated shift towards higher reliance on n-3 LC-PUFA deprived terrestrial prey of native brown troutSalmo trutta living in sympatry with invasive brook troutSalvelinus fontinalis to explore this hypothesis.
3. We found that the content of n-3 LC-PUFA in muscle tissues of brown trout decreased with increasing consumption of n-3 LC-PUFA deprived terrestrial prey. Brain volume was positively related to content of the n-3 LC-PUFA, docosahexaenoic acid, in muscle tissues of brown trout.
4. Our study thus suggests that increased reliance on low quality diet of n-3 LC-PUFA deprived subsidies from terrestrial food web can have a significant negative impact on brain development of wild trout. These findings provide the first evidence of an intra-specific link between n-3 LC-PUFA content in natural prey and brain size of wild vertebrate consumers.
5. Ongoing global change is predicted to reduce the availability of dietary n-3 LC-PUFA across food webs. Therefore, our findings emphasise the need for further research on how wild consumers adapt to the shortage of dietary n-3 LC-PUFA in order to maintain optimal development and functioning of their brain, which is crucial for their fitness.