Nutrients, substances that are used by an organism’s
metabolism, can be classified into macronutrients and micronutrients.
In general, micronutrients include vitamins, trace minerals,
and other bioactive components which provide benefits via more
subtle interactions with the body’s chemistry. Micronutrients
are distinguished from macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate
or fat) by the much smaller amounts that need to be supplied
in the diets for normal metabolism. Although only required in
minute amounts, micronutrients play important roles in the production
of enzymes, hormones, and metabolic substances. They also help
regulate growth, activity, and development, as well as immune
and reproductive system functions. Adequate intake of micronutrients
is especially crucial during an animal’s early life stages,
when rapid growth and development take place.
The Nutritional Biochemical Laboratory of OI’s Aquatic
Feeds and Nutrition Department is equipped with high-tech analytical
instruments, such as the High Performance Liquid Chromatograph
and the Gas Chromatograph, to quantify micronutrients, and other
nutrients, in aquatic feeds and feed ingredients.
Measuring the micronutrient composition of aquatic feeds and
ingredients is an essential but challenging task due to the tiny
amounts one must work with, and the susceptibility of many micronutrients
to environmental degradation. Knowledge of micronutrient levels
in ingredients is important in formulating complete diets for
nutritional research projects, and ensures the quality of aquatic
feeds and ingredients.
An example of the type of research conducted by the Aquatic Feeds
and Nutrition Department on micronutrients is its work on the
role of phytonutrients from shrimp pond microbial floc in the
growth and health of shrimp and fish. Phytonutrients are plant
compounds thought to have health-protecting properties. Our current
research includes the following compounds: phytopigments-carotenoids,
which are responsible for the pink color in cooked shrimp; phytosterols,
which play an important role in steroid hormone synthesis and
the molting process; amino sugars (e.g. glucosamine), which provide
the building blocks for shrimp shell formation; phospholipids,
which are important components of biological membranes; and bromophenols,
which are responsible for the characteristic “seafood” flavor
in fish and shrimp. Many of thesemicronutrients cannot be internally
synthesized by the animal, and must therefore be consumed by
the shrimp, either as part of the feed or as part of the floc
that they consume.
Any micronutrient deficiency in aquatic feeds, whether from poor
ingredient quality, suboptimal diet formulation, or deterioration
due to feed processing and storage conditions, can compromise
the animal’s health, resulting in disease or slow growth.
This is one of the primary reasons why lab-based nutritional
research to identify and quantify micronutrients is so important
in optimizing the growth and health of aquacultured shrimp and
Contact Education Director Gary Karr at 259-3145 or via email
at firstname.lastname@example.org, for information about volunteer
and internship opportunities.