The quantitative and qualitative composition of fatty acids in particulate material collected in traps deployed during 98 days at 389, 988, 3755 and 5068 m depths in the equatorial North Atlantic was determined. The fatty acid composition indicates a predominantly marine source (14:0, 16:0, 16:1, 18:0, 18:1, 20:5, 20:4, 22:6, 22:5) with possibly a minor terrigenous component in the bathypelagic traps. The vertical fluxes of fatty acids and lipids decrease rapidly with depth. The rate of net loss of carboxylic acids increases with number of double bonds and decreases with number of carbon atoms. Iso- and anteiso- as well as some monoenoic fatty acids are more persistent, probably due to enhanced microbial synthesis during settling which counteracts degradation.