Ichthyological Research

, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 7–16 | Cite as

Specific identification using COI sequence analysis of scombrid larvae collected off the Kona coast of Hawaii Island

  • Melissa A. Paine
  • Jan R. McDowell
  • John E. Graves
Full Paper


Physical condition and morphological similarity prohibit unambiguous specific identification in many studies of scombrid larvae, often resulting in several larvae that are unidentified or identified only to genus. Recent molecular techniques allow for the unambiguous identification of early life history stages, even of those specimens that may be damaged. Molecular and morphological techniques were used to determine the species composition of scombrid larvae taken in 43 tows in a putative spawning area off the Kona Coast of Hawaii Island, 19–26 September 2004. Most of these tows were taken at night, at depths of 10 or 14 m, for 1 h each at 2.5 knots. All 872 scombrid larvae collected were identified to species, 29% from unambiguous morphological criteria and 71% using a molecular marker [cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) gene sequence]. Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) and skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) dominated the larval composition almost equally, with frequencies of 48 and 45%, respectively. Five percent of the collection was identified as albacore T. alalunga, a higher frequency than reported in previous studies of scombrid larval assemblages around the Hawaiian Islands. This COI molecular marker enabled complete description of species diversity in the assemblage of scombrid larvae collected.


Larvae Scombrid Tuna Identification COI 



We are indebted to Robert Humphreys, Jr., for allowing M. Paine to participate on a NOAA research cruise aboard R/V Oscar Elton Sette, as well as for sharing equipment, supplies, and his expertise. We are also grateful to the OES officers and crew, especially Randy Ramey. We owe many thanks to Pat Crewe, Melanie Chattin, Ashleigh Rhea, and Allen Shimada, who sorted through the majority of the plankton tows. Eric Brasseur facilitated photography of the larvae. Bruce Mundy and John Olney instructed M. Paine on morphological identification of scombrid larvae. Funding for this project was by the NOAA Cooperative Marine Education and Research (CMER) program and the NMFS Highly Migratory Species Division.


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Copyright information

© The Ichthyological Society of Japan 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa A. Paine
    • 1
  • Jan R. McDowell
    • 1
  • John E. Graves
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceSchool of Marine Science, College of William and MaryGloucester PointUSA

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