Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 697–732 | Cite as

Reproduction and larval biology in tunas, and the importance of restricted area spawning grounds

  • Barbara A. Muhling
  • John T. Lamkin
  • Francisco Alemany
  • Alberto García
  • Jessica Farley
  • G. Walter IngramJr.
  • Diego Alvarez Berastegui
  • Patricia Reglero
  • Raul Laiz Carrion


Tunas show a wide variety of life history strategies, spatial distributions and migratory behaviors, yet they share a common trait of spawning only in tropical and sub-tropical regions. The warm-water tuna species generally show significant overlap between spawning and feeding grounds, and longer spawning seasons of several months to near year-round. In contrast, the cool-water bluefin tunas migrate long distances between feeding and spawning grounds, and may spawn over periods as short as 2 months. Here, we examine the spatial distributions of tuna larvae in the world’s oceans, and examine interspecific differences in the light of adult behaviors and larval ecology. We discuss the links between larval tuna and their oceanographic environments and relate these to current knowledge of larval growth, feeding and trophodynamics, with a focus on the better-studied bluefin tunas. We show that larval tunas have moderate to fast growth rates and selective feeding habits, and thus appear to be adapted for survival in warm, oligotrophic seas. We also examine the challenges of sustainably managing species which migrate across multiple management boundaries to reach spatio-temporally restricted spawning grounds and discuss the previous and future anthropogenic impacts on tuna spawning areas.


Tuna Fish larvae Larval ecology Life history strategy 



J. Roberts is thanked for the development of the MGET tool for processing satellite imagery. R. Brill, A. Hobday and L. Dagorn are thanked for conceiving and editing this collection of papers. The manuscript was significantly improved by feedback from D. Tommasi and F. Gonzalez Taboada, and two anonymous reviewers. This work was partially supported by funding from CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, NASA Grants NNX11AP76GS07 and NNX08AL06G, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 678193. The BLUEFIN TUNA Project driven by the Balearic Island Observing and Forecasting System ( and the Spanish Institute of Oceanography ( financed DAB and part of the research developed in the Western Mediterranean.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara A. Muhling
    • 1
    • 2
  • John T. Lamkin
    • 3
  • Francisco Alemany
    • 4
  • Alberto García
    • 5
  • Jessica Farley
    • 6
  • G. Walter IngramJr.
    • 7
  • Diego Alvarez Berastegui
    • 8
  • Patricia Reglero
    • 4
  • Raul Laiz Carrion
    • 5
  1. 1.Princeton University Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencePrincetonUSA
  2. 2.NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics LaboratoryPrincetonUSA
  3. 3.Southeast Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries ServiceNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)MiamiUSA
  4. 4.Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centro Oceanográfico de Baleares (COB-IEO)Palma De MallorcaSpain
  5. 5.Centro Oceanográfico de MálagaInstituto Español de OceanografíaMálagaSpain
  6. 6.Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO): Oceans and AtmosphereHobartAustralia
  7. 7.Southeast Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries ServiceNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)PascagoulaUSA
  8. 8.Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System (SOCIB)Balearic IslandsSpain

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