Abundance and habitat associations of tuna larvae in the surface water of the Gulf of Mexico
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Summer ichthyoplankton surveys were conducted in the northern Gulf of Mexico from 2007 to 2010 to characterize the distribution and abundance of tuna larvae. Larval assemblages of tunas were comprised of four genera: Thunnus, Auxis, Euthynnus, and Katsuwonus. Thunnus were the most abundant and four species were detected; T. atlanticus [blackfin tuna], T. obesus [bigeye tuna], T. albacares [yellowfin tuna], and T. thynnus [bluefin tuna]. Intra- and inter-annual variability in the distribution and abundance of Thunnus species were observed with higher densities in 2008 and 2009, with a decline in abundance observed in 2010. Distribution and abundance of Thunnus larvae were influenced by physical and chemical conditions of the water mass, notably sea surface temperature and salinity. Distinct species-specific habitat preferences were observed and the location of mesoscale oceanographic features influenced larval abundance with higher densities of T. atlanticus, T. obesus, and T. albacares near anticyclonic (warm core) regions and the Loop Current, while T. thynnus was observed in higher densities near cyclonic (cold core) regions. This study demonstrates that spatial and temporal variability in the location of mesoscale oceanographic features may be important to partitioning nursery habitat among Thunnus species.
KeywordsBluefin Yellowfin Bigeye Blackfin Eddies Loop Current
We thank Landes Randall, Kimberly Clausen-Sparks, Michael Dance, Lynne Wetmore, Kaylan Dance, Ching-Ping Lu, Lori Davis, and Jessica Lee for their assistance in the field and lab. This research was made possible in part by a grant from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (Deep Pelagic Nekton Dynamics consortium), the McDaniel Charitable Foundation, Louisiana State University, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Data are publicly available through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information & Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) at https://data.gulfresearchinitiative.org (doi: 10.7266/N7610XFM).
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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