Little is known about the nutrition or lipid metabolism of cold-water crabs, particularly in the North Pacific. We undertook a 2-part study to understand more completely the energetics and nutritional requirements of juvenile red king crab (RKC; Paralithodes camtschaticus). First, we investigated changes in proximate composition, total lipids (TLs), lipid classes, and fatty acids (FAs) throughout a molt cycle (C4–C5). Trends in lipid parameters were described by a 3-part piecewise linear regression with 3 distinct stages: (1) a postmolt phase (∼0–7 days), (2) an intramolt stage (∼7–24 days), and (3) a premolt stage (∼24–33 days). Significant intramolt differences in TLs indicated that caution should be taken when comparing crabs of unknown molt stage in future aquaculture and ecological experiments. However, little variability was found in the proportional FA composition of crabs, indicating that the intramolt stage has little effect on the interpretation of FA biomarkers. During a second investigation, we examined differences in lipid classes and FAs from cultured and wild RKC. We found significantly higher proportions of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) 20:5n-3 (EPA) and 20:4n-6 (AA) in wild crabs compared with cultured animals at the same stage. Furthermore, higher proportions of bacterial markers and lower proportions of Zooplankton FA markers were found in wild than in hatchery-reared crabs. Here, we provide the first baseline data for future dietary studies on juvenile cold-water crabs. We suggest that an initial EFA ratio for DHA:EPA:AA of 5:8:1 could be used as a starting point for controlled dietary studies on the effect of EFAs on juvenile growth, molt success, and survival.
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Vol. 31 • No. 1