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A rapid ontogenetic shift in the diet of juvenile yellowfin tuna from Hawaii
Graham, B.S.; Grubbs, D.; Holland, K.; Popp, B.N. (2007). A rapid ontogenetic shift in the diet of juvenile yellowfin tuna from Hawaii. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 150(4): 647-658.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162; e-ISSN 1432-1793, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Graham, B.S.
  • Grubbs, D.
  • Holland, K.
  • Popp, B.N.

    Within the tropical and subtropical oceans, tuna forage opportunistically on a wide variety of prey. However, little is known about the trophic ecology of the smallest size classes which play an important role in stock assessments and fisheries management. The foraging behavior of yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares (23.5–154.0 cm FL), collected from nearshore Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) around Oahu was studied using stable isotope and stomach contents analyses. Emphasis was placed on small juveniles. Yellowfin tuna changed their diets significantly between 45 and 50 cm forklength (ca. 1.5 kg). Smallest size classes fed on planktonic organisms inhabiting the shallow mixed layer, primarily larval stomatopod and decapod crustaceans, whereas larger tuna fed on teleosts and adult Oplophorus gracilirostris, a vertically migrating mesopelagic species of shrimp. When interpreting the variation in prey d 15N values, we considered both their relative trophic position and d 15N values of the nitrogen at the base of the food web. Based on the distinct diet shift of the yellowfin tuna, demonstrated by both isotope and stomach content analyses, we propose a critical mass threshold was reached at about 45 cm FL that enabled sufficient endothermic capability to allow tuna to access prey dwelling in deeper, colder water. These ontogenetic changes in foraging range and commensurate shift in diet of small tunas would affect their vulnerability to fishing pressure.

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