A general mechanism underlying the response of ectotherms to environmental changes often involves changes in fatty acid composition. Theory predicts that a decrease in temperature causes an increase in unsaturation of fatty acids, with an important role for long-chain poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). However, PUFAs are particularly unstable and susceptible to peroxidation, hence subtle differences in fatty acid composition can be challenging to detect. We determined the fatty acid composition in springtail (Collembola) in response to two temperatures (5 degrees C and 25 degrees C). First, we tested different sample preparation methods to maximize PUFAs. Treatments consisted of different solvents for primary lipid extraction, mixing with antioxidant, flushing with inert gas, and using different temperature exposures during saponification. Especially slow saponification at low temperature (90 min at 70 degrees C) in combination with replacement of headspace air with nitrogen during saponification and methylation maximized PUFAs for GC analysis. Applying these methods to measure thermal responses in fatty acid composition, the data showed that the (maximized) proportion of C(20) PUFAs increased at low acclimation temperature. However, C(18) PUFAs increased at high acclimation temperature, which is contrary to expectations. Our study illustrates that PUFA levels in lipids may often be underestimated and this may hamper a correct interpretation of differential responses of fatty acid composition
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