Omega-3 and parasites, is there a connection?
Omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (hereafter omega-3) such as 20:5n-3(EPA) and 22:6n-3 (DHA) are essential for marine consumers health and are acquired through dietary intake. Phytoplankton and microphytobenthos are the main producer of omega-3, with macrozoobenthos being the main primary consumers in shallow coastal environments. Parasites are known to cause behavioral, morphological and/or physiological changes in infected hosts, altering the food intake (quantity or quality), as well as the host’s metabolism and resource use. To date, no information exists on the relationship between omega-3 in consumers and parasitic infections.
This project aims to elucidate if there is a relationship between omega-3 animal’ content and parasite presence. We want to test the hypothesis that non-infected individuals will have a higher amount of omega-3 as they are in better health condition than infected conspecifics. This pioneer study will set the ground for further investigations elucidating the role of parasitism in influencing omega-3 accumulation and transfer to higher trophic levels.
This student will be based at NIOZ on Texel for the duration of the project, which is expected to be 6+ months starting in March 2024.