Biochemical proxies are becoming increasingly common for growth assessment in zooplankton. Their suitability is often unknown, however, and proper calibration is lacking. We investigated correlations between physiological variables (ingestion, egg production, and respiration rates) and biochemical indices related to protein synthesis (RNA content, RNA: DNA ratio, RNA: protein ratio, and protein specific aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases [spAARS] activity) in copepods Acartia bifilosa exposed to different algal concentrations (0-1200 mu g C L-1). All variables assayed increased with increasing food concentration either linearly (spAARS) or nonlinearly (all other variables). Egg production and ingestion rates were significantly and positively correlated with RNA content and RNA: protein ratio, whereas correlations with spAARS and RNA: DNA ratio were weaker or nonsignificant. However, when RNA: DNA ratio and spAARS activity were used as predictors of ingestion, together they had higher explanatory value than did either variable separately. As there were substantial differences in saturating food concentrations among the assayed variables, applicability of biomarkers as proxies of physiological rates will be more reliable if restricted to the nonsaturated phase of the functional response of either variable, unless both variables saturate simultaneously. These findings contribute to methodology of zooplankton growth assessment and to our understanding of biochemical processes underlying growth and metabolism in copepods.
2009. Vol. 7, 785-794 p.