Despite the increasing use of fatty acids (FAs) as biomarkers in aquatic food web analysis, little information is available regarding differences in FA profiles of fish among habitat types in river-floodplain ecosystems. The objectives of this study were to 1) test whether the FA profiles of channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) differed among three reaches of the lower Kaskaskia River and its floodplain lakes, and 2) to compare FA profiles among muscle, liver, and adipose fin tissues collected from these fish. Profiles differed significantly among sites, especially between upper and lower river sites, and between river channel and oxbow lake sites, suggesting differences in FA availability for channel catfish occupying different habitats and river reaches in the Kaskaskia River system. Specifically, the essential FAs 18:2n-6 and 18:3n-3 increased in catfish tissues from upstream to downstream reaches, which could reflect increased floodplain connectivity and decreasing impoundment effects downstream. Ratios of n-3 to n-6 FAs were higher in fish from oxbow lakes, perhaps suggesting increased use of autochthonous production in the floodplain relative to the main river channel. Muscle and adipose fin FA profiles exhibited similar location-related trends, whereas liver FA profiles were markedly different from the other tissue types. These results suggest that adipose fin tissue samples may be a viable, less-invasive alternative to muscle tissue for analysis of FA profiles in channel catfish. Our study supports the use of tissue FA profiles in identifying habitat utilization by channel catfish, and perhaps habitat-specific energy contributions to riverine consumers. Furthermore, our work highlights floodplain habitat as a potential source of essential n-3 FA and the associated importance of maintaining river-floodplain connectivity to support aquatic food webs.
River Research and Applications