Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 9, pp 1823–1840 | Cite as

Trophic niche overlap among dolphinfish and co-occurring tunas near the northern edge of their range in the western North Atlantic

  • Amy K. TefferEmail author
  • Michelle D. Staudinger
  • Francis Juanes
Original Paper


We present the first quantitative analyses of dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) foraging habits and trophic interactions with co-occurring yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and albacore (T. alalunga) tunas in the Southern New England region of the western North Atlantic Ocean. Fish caught by recreational anglers in offshore waters of Massachusetts were sampled during the summers of 2007–2010. Diet analysis revealed that shortfin squid (Illex illecebrosus) and small pelagic crustaceans were principal prey to dolphinfish, yellowfin tuna, and albacore tuna. A wide variety of Sargassum-associated fishes were also important to dolphinfish and yellowfin tuna diets. Dietary (Schoener’s index: 0.82–0.86) and isotopic niche (isotopic ellipse overlap: 53.6–64.7 %) overlap was high, and dolphinfish and tunas occupied equivalent trophic positions (TP = 3.4–3.6). Relative prey size in dolphinfish and yellowfin tuna diets exhibited convergence with ontogeny. Overall, dolphinfish had the greatest isotopic niche width, which was twice as large as yellowfin tuna and three times as large as albacore tuna; dolphinfish also consumed the greatest range of prey sizes. Results quantify dolphinfish trophic interactions in the western Atlantic near the northern extent of their geographical range, and are relevant for ecosystem-based management of the offshore pelagic guild in the context of shifting fish populations and fisheries in response to climate and ecological change.


Trophic Position Prey Size Fish Prey Yellowfin Tuna Isotopic Niche 
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 would like to thank Gregory Skomal and John Chisholm of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries for facilitating access to fishermen and fish for this project; Andy Danylchuk, John Logan and an anonymous reviewer for comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Special thanks to the angling clubs and fishing tournament organizers who allowed us to sample at their events and their catch, especially to the crew of the Helen H Deep Sea Fishing fleet for providing valuable opportunities for sample collection. We thank Robert Murphy, Morgan Lindemayer, Nicki Jacobson, Melissa Belcher, Tyler Van Fleet, Mike Akresh, Katherine Terkanian, Sarah Martinez, Mark Teffer, Sarah Oktay and members of the UMass Boston Nantucket Field Station, as well as many others for volunteering and helping with sampling; these individuals were essential to completing this work. We thank Kim Duernberger (University of North Carolina Wilmington) for her help with stable isotope analysis and Mike Vecchione and Richard Young for their help identifying cephalopod specimens and beaks. Thanks to Hazel Oxenford for supplying raw data valuable to this manuscript. Funding for this project was provided by a Massachusetts Agricultural Research Station Hatch Grant, the University of Massachusetts School of Marine Sciences, and the Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy K. Teffer
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Michelle D. Staudinger
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Francis Juanes
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Environmental ConservationUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Marine BiologyUniversity of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  4. 4.DOI Northeast Climate Science Center, 134 Morrill Science CenterUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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