Feeding ecology of wild migratory tunas revealed by archival tag records of visceral warming

Authors

  • Sophie Bestley,

    Corresponding author
    1. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Laboratories, Hobart, Tas. 7000, Australia; and
    2. School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay Campus, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia
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  • Toby A. Patterson,

    1. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Laboratories, Hobart, Tas. 7000, Australia; and
    2. School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay Campus, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia
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  • Mark A. Hindell,

    1. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Laboratories, Hobart, Tas. 7000, Australia; and
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  • John S. Gunn

    1. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Laboratories, Hobart, Tas. 7000, Australia; and
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  • 1

    Based on the length to weight conversion W = 3.13088L2.9058 × 10−5 (Robins 1963).

*Correspondence author. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia; E-mail: sophie.bestley@csiro.au

Summary

  • 1Seasonal long-distance migrations are often expected to be related to resource distribution, and foraging theory predicts that animals should spend more time in areas with relatively richer resources. Yet for highly migratory marine species, data on feeding success are difficult to obtain. We analysed the temporal feeding patterns of wild juvenile southern bluefin tuna from visceral warming patterns recorded by archival tags implanted within the body cavity.
  • 2Data collected during 1998–2000 totalled 6221 days, with individual time series (n = 19) varying from 141 to 496 days. These data span an annual migration circuit including a coastal summer residency within Australian waters and subsequent migration into the temperate south Indian Ocean.
  • 3Individual fish recommenced feeding between 5 and 38 days after tagging, and feeding events (n = 5194) were subsequently identified on 76·3 ± 5·8% of days giving a mean estimated daily intake of 0·75 ± 0·05 kg.
  • 4The number of feeding events varied significantly with time of day with the greatest number occurring around dawn (58·2 ± 8·0%). Night feeding, although rare (5·7 ± 1·3%), was linked to the full moon quarter. Southern bluefin tuna foraged in ambient water temperatures ranging from 4·9 °C to 22·9 °C and depths ranging from the surface to 672 m, with different targeting strategies evident between seasons.
  • 5No clear relationship was found between feeding success and time spent within an area. This was primarily due to high individual variability, with both positive and negative relationships observed at all spatial scales examined (grid ranges of 2 × 2° to 10 × 10°). Assuming feeding success is proportional to forage density, our data do not support the hypothesis that these predators concentrate their activity in areas of higher resource availability.
  • 6Multiple-day fasting periods were recorded by most individuals. The majority of these (87·8%) occurred during periods of apparent residency within warmer waters (sea surface temperature > 15 °C) at the northern edge of the observed migratory range. These previously undocumented nonfeeding periods may indicate alternative motivations for residency.
  • 7Our results demonstrate the importance of obtaining information on feeding when interpreting habitat utilization from individual animal tracks.

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