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Composition and origin of milky water in the North Sea

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2009

J. K. Volkman
Affiliation:
Organic Geochemistry Unit, Department of Chemistry, University of Bristol
R. R. Gatten
Affiliation:
Natural Environment Research Council, Institute of Marine Biochemistry, Aberdeen, Scotland
J. R. Sargent
Affiliation:
Natural Environment Research Council, Institute of Marine Biochemistry, Aberdeen, Scotland

Extract

An occurrence of ‘milky water’ which covered a wide area of the North Sea in June 1975 is described. The water contained 20 mg/1 of an oil which was shown by capillary GC-MS to consist mainly (> 80%) of two wax esters 34:1 and 36:1. Analysis of the acids and alcohols released by hydrolysis, and interpretation of the wax ester mass spectra, indicated that the 34:1 ester was almost entirely composed of the alcohol-acid combination 20:1–14:0 and the 36:1 ester was composed of 22:1–14:0 (75%) and 20:1–16:0 (19%). Wax esters of virtually the same composition predominate in the lipids of the copepod Calanus finmarchicus which has the implication that the ‘milky water’ was caused by ageing of the oil released following a mass mortality of copepods. The lack of polyunsaturated wax esters and of astaxanthin is ascribed to oxidative degradation of these labile lipids following release into the sea. A copepod origin for the milky water is further supported by its containing small amounts of cholesterol and pristane, both of which are common to Calanus species.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 1980

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