Trophic niche variability influences body condition of female Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) on organosomatic and biochemical levels
Body condition and energy reserves are important indicators of organism health, habitat suitability and predictors for the reproductive success in fish. In Greenland waters, Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) inhabits different habitats in shallow and deep parts on top of the shelf and along slopes, where diet composition differs. We investigated the influence of habitat heterogeneity and trophic niche on body condition using organosomatic indicators, e.g. the morphometric index K, hepatosomatic and gonadosomatic indices, and biochemical indicators, e.g. lipid content and fatty acid compositions, of mature female cod. Body condition differed between sites and peaked in north-eastern regions in depths below 300 m towards the slope of the northern Irminger Sea. Trophic niches as indicated by stable isotope values and stomach composition data varied between sites, which was likely related to depth and differences between benthic and pelagic feeding regimes. Total lipid content and fatty acid profiles important for reproduction were associated with a pelagic diet comprised of mesopelagic fish and crustaceans. Interestingly, consumption of capelin was not linked to highest energy reserves as indicated by traditional body condition indices, such as K and the hepatosomatic index, but lowest ratios of eicosapentaenoic acid to arachidonic acid in gonads, which are known to be beneficial for high egg production. This shows that body condition on biochemical level can differ from conventionally used indices, which emphasizes the need to take fatty acid composition into account, when investigating condition and reproductive potential in cod. Our results emphasize that the factor habitat cannot be ignored for population replenishment of the cod stocks in Greenland waters and indicate that capelin as part of an Arcto-boreal diet benefits reproductive success in cod.