Intraspecific variation in external and internal pigmentation is common among fishes and explained by a variety of biological and ecological factors. Blue-colored flesh in fishes is relatively rare but has been documented in some species of the sculpin, greenling, and perch families. Diet, starvation, photoprotection, and camouflage have all been suggested as proximate mechanisms driving blue flesh, but causal factors are poorly understood. We evaluated the relative importance of biological and spatial factors that could explain variation in blue coloration in 2021 lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) captured across their range in the northeastern Pacific, from southeast Alaska to southern California. The probability of having blue flesh was highest for fish that were female, caught in shallower water, and smaller in body size. The incidence of blueness varied by region (4–25% of all fish) but was also confounded by differences in sex ratios of fish caught among regions. We analyzed the multivariate fatty acid composition of a subset of 175 fish from across the sampling range to test for differences in trophic biomarkers in blue lingcod. Lingcod fatty acid composition differed between regions and flesh colors but not between sexes. Blue-fleshed fish had lower concentrations of total fatty acids, 18:1ω-9, 16:1ω-7, 18:1ω-7, and ω-6 fatty acids, suggesting differences in energetics and energy storage in blue fish. While our data indicate potential links between diet and blue flesh in lingcod, important questions remain about the physiological mechanisms governing blueness and its biological consequences.
National Marine Fisheries Service
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Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
Aaron W.E. Galloway, Anne H. Beaudreau, Michael D. Thomas, Bonnie L. Basnett, Laurel S. Lam, Scott L. Hamilton, Kelly S. Andrews, Julie B. Schram, Jessica Watson, and Jameal F. Samhouri. "Assessing prevalence and correlates of blue-colored flesh in lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) across their geographic range" Marine Biology (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-021-03936-6