In an effort to better understand the physiological and ecological differences between warm and cold water copepod species in Korean waters using lipid contents and compositions, two species of copepods (Pleuromamma sp. as a warm water species and Neocalanus plumchrus as a cold water species) were collected from the Northwest Pacific and East Sea/Sea of Japan, respectively. The cold water species showed two fold higher lipid contents than the warm water species (11% vs. 5% of dry weight). Wax esters, known as one of the major storage lipid classes, were found to be the dominant lipid class (accounting for 64% of total lipids) in the cold water species, whereas, in the warm water species, phospholipids, which are known as membrane components, were the dominant lipid class (accounting for 43% of total lipids),with a trace amount of the storage lipids as a form of triacylglycerols (
of total lipids). With regard to the fatty acid compositions, saturated fatty acids (SAFA), especially 16:0 (about 30% of total fatty acids), were most abundant in the warm water species, whereas the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA : 20:5(n-3)) (
of total fatty acids), were most abundant in the cold water species. Among the neutral fraction of lipids, phytol, originating from the side chain of chlorophyll and indicative of active feeding on phytoplankton, was detected only in the warm water species. Significant quantities of fatty alcohols were detected in cold water species, particularly long-chain monounsaturated fatty alcohols (i.e. 20:1(n-9) and 22:1(n-11)), which are well known to abound in cold water herbivorous copepods. However, only trace amounts of short-chain fatty alcohols were detected in the warm water species. Twelve different kinds of sterols were detected in these copepod species, with cholest-5-en-
-ol (cholesterol) and cholesta-5, 24-dien-
-ol (desmosterol) dominating in cold and warm water species, respectively. In addition, for the warm water species (Pleuromamma sp.), we assessed the latitudinal gradients of lipid contents and compositions using samples from three different latitudinal regions (Philippine EEZ, Japan EEZ, and the East China Sea). Although no latitudinal gradients of lipid contents were detected, the lipid compositions, particularly dietary fatty acid markers, varied significantly with the latitude. The findings of this study confirm that the distribution of lipid contents and compositions in copepods may not only indicate their nutritional condition and diet history, but may also provide insights into their living strategies under different environmental conditions (i.e., water temperature, food availability).