Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 5, pp 1057–1073 | Cite as

Variability of albacore (Thunnus alalunga) diet in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea

  • Nicolas Goñi
  • John Logan
  • Haritz Arrizabalaga
  • Marc Jarry
  • Molly Lutcavage
Original Paper


This study aims to describe the variability of albacore (Thunnus alalunga) diet in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea and to identify possible relationships between this variability and the features of different feeding areas, the behavior, and the energetic needs of albacore. Stomach contents from albacore caught in five zones of the Bay of Biscay and surrounding waters (n = 654) and three zones of the Mediterranean Sea (n = 152) were analyzed in terms of diet composition and stomach fullness. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope and C/N ratios were measured for white muscle and liver from albacore in the Bay of Biscay (n = 41) and Mediterranean Sea (n = 60). Our results showed a spatial, seasonal, inter-annual, and size-related variability in the diet of albacore. Albacore diet varied by location in the Mediterranean Sea, with a particularly high proportion of cephalopods, and low δ15N values in the Tyrrhenian Sea. In the Northeast Atlantic, albacore consumed a higher proportion of crustaceans and a lower proportion of fishes in the most offshore sampling zone than inshore. The digestion states of the major prey reflected a diurnal feeding activity, indicative of feeding in deeper waters offshore, whereas on the continental slope, feeding probably occurred in surface waters at night. Important seasonal and inter-annual diet variability was observed in the southeast of the Bay of Biscay, where preferred albacore prey appeared to be anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus). Stomach fullness was inversely related to body size, probably reflecting higher energetic needs for smaller individuals. Albacore from the Bay of Biscay had significantly lower δ13C and higher δ15N values compared with albacore from the Mediterranean Sea, indicative of regional baseline shifts, and trophic position and muscle lipid stores in albacore increased with body size.


Stomach Content White Muscle Trophic Position Bluefin Tuna Multiple Correspondence Analysis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are very grateful to Deirdre Brophy and GMIT samplers, Jean-Pierre Esain, Jean-Hilaire de Bailliencourt, Luis Alberto “Luxia” Martín, Luis Arregi, Iñigo Onandia, José-Ángel Fernández, Peio Olazabal, Enrique Keler, and collaborating recreative fishermen for providing stomach samples. We thank Irene Gomez, Deniz Kukul, Maite Cuesta, and Iñaki Rico for their help in stomach content observations, Lucía Zarauz and Aitor Albaina for their help in crustacean identifications, David Milly for the information on trawler fishing zones, and Andrew Ouimette for assistance with stable isotope analyses. We finally thank both anonymous reviewers and associate editor for their comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This work was partly funded by a PhD grant from the Fundación Centros Tecnológicos to N. Goñi and by NOAA grant no. NA04NMF4550391 to M. Lutcavage. This paper is contribution number 524 from AZTI-Tecnalia (Marine Research). This paper is a contribution to the CLIOTOP (Climate Impacts on Oceanic Top Predators) project. The experiments complied with the current laws of the countries in which they were performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolas Goñi
    • 1
  • John Logan
    • 2
  • Haritz Arrizabalaga
    • 1
  • Marc Jarry
    • 3
    • 4
  • Molly Lutcavage
    • 5
  1. 1.AZTI-TecnaliaPasaia (Gipuzkoa)Spain
  2. 2.Massachusetts Division of Marine FisheriesNew BedfordUSA
  3. 3.INRA, UMR 1224 EcobiopSaint Pée sur NivelleFrance
  4. 4.UPPA, UMR 1224 EcobiopPauFrance
  5. 5.Large Pelagics Research Center, Department of Natural Resources ConservationUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstGloucesterUSA

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