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