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Environmental preferences of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) at the northern extent of its range


We used acoustic telemetry to examine the small-scale movement patterns of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) in the California Bight at the northern extent of their range. Oceanographic profiles of temperature, oxygen, currents and fluorometry were used to determine the relationship between movements and environmental features. Three yellowfin tuna (8 to 16 kg) were tracked for 2 to 3 d. All three fish spent the majority of their time above the thermocline (18 to 45 m in depth) in water temperatures >17.5 °C. In the California Bight, yellowfin tuna have a limited vertical distribution due to the restriction imposed by temperature. The three fish made periodic short dives below the thermocline (60 to 80 m), encountering cooler temperatures (>11 °C). When swimming in northern latitudes, the depth of the mixed layer largely defines the spatial distribution of yellowfin tuna within the water column. Yellowfin prefer to spend most of their time just above the top of the thermocline. Oxygen profiles indicated that the tunas encountered oceanic water masses that ranged most often from 6.8 to 8.6 mg O2 l−1, indicating no limitation due to oxygen concentrations. The yellowfin tuna traveled at speeds ranging from 0.46 to 0.90 m s−1 (0.9 to 1.8 knots h−1) and frequently exhibited an oscillatory diving pattern previously suggested to be a possible strategy for conserving energy during swimming.

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Received: 14 February 1997 / Accepted: 14 April 1997

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Block, B., Keen, J., Castillo, B. et al. Environmental preferences of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) at the northern extent of its range. Marine Biology 130, 119–132 (1997).

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  • Vertical Distribution
  • Mixed Layer
  • Water Masse
  • Movement Pattern
  • Environmental Feature