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Stock structure of the southern bluefin tuna Thunnus maccoyii: an investigation based on probe microanalysis of otolith composition

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Abstract

Analysis of the chemistry of calcified tissues has been suggested to be a source of useful information on the population structure and environmental history of fishes. We have investigated this approach as a means of determining the number of spawning areas and diversity of migration routes in the large pelagic scombrid, Thunnus maccoyii (southern bluefin tuna). Analysis was based on ontogenetic variation in the composition of sagittal otoliths, as measured using two probe microanalysers (wavelength dispersive electron probe microanalysis and proton-induced X-ray emission microanalysis), of 9 larvae collected on the single known spawning ground (NE Indian Ocean), of 29 juveniles caught at different points along the known migration routes (off western Australia, southern Australia, and South Africa), and of 14 adults caught in the high-seas fishery (off SE Australia). Fifteen elements were detected in T. maccoyii sagittae, but only six (Ca, Na, Sr, K, S, and Cl) were consistently present at concentrations above minimum detection limits. No attempt was made to measure the concentrations of C, N and O, which are assumed to also be present. Comparisons among different samples indicated that: (1) variation in the composition of the otolith primordium was unimodal and, generally, normally distributed; (2) this composition varied among specimens as a function of their size or, apparently, year-class; (3) individuals collected from widely separated locations did not differ clearly in the composition of the most recently deposited sections of their otoliths; and (4) all variation in the composition of adult otoliths was encompassed in the range of variation of juveniles collected along the major known migration route. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis of a single spawning area for T. maccoyii, but also indicate that the range of environmentally correlated variation in composition is too low to provide a robust test of the diversity of migration routes. It is not clear why this variation is so low, but we suspect that it reflects both the relative homogeneity of the pelagic environment and a weak effect of environmental factors on the concentration of elements present in otoliths at levels≳1 ppm.

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Communicated by G.F. Humphrey, Sydney

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Proctor, C.H., Thresher, R.E., Gunn, J.S. et al. Stock structure of the southern bluefin tuna Thunnus maccoyii: an investigation based on probe microanalysis of otolith composition. Marine Biology 122, 511–526 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00350674

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