Swordfish vertical distribution and habitat use in relation to diel and lunar cycles in the Western North Atlantic

Justin D. Lerner, David W. Kerstetter, Eric D. Prince, Liana Talaue-McManus, Eric S. Orbesen, Arthur Mariano, Derke Snodgrass, Gary L. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The vertical movement patterns of eight Swordfish Xiphias gladius from 109- to 249-cm lower jaw fork length in the western North Atlantic were studied utilizing pop-up archival transmitting tags. Deployments ranged from 120 to 151 d. Swordfish demonstrated significant differences in depth and temperature distributions between daytime and nighttime periods. Individual Swordfish behavior was characterized by occupying surface waters of less than 100 m during the night and depths greater than 400 m during daytime hours, vertical movements between the surface and depth occurring during crepuscular hours. The maximum depth recorded was 1,448 m (one of the deepest recorded depths for the species). Daytime surfacing behavior was seen in all tagged Swordfish, a rare finding for Swordfish in tropical latitudes. A dominant diurnal period of 1 cycle/d was found from a power spectral density analysis of five of the tagged Swordfish, a novel method for determining periodicity in the behavior of tagged animals. Regression analysis indicated a significant positive relationship between depth and fraction of the moon illuminated, supporting anecdotal and vessel logbook information from local Swordfish fisheries indicating changes in depth in relation to lunar phase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-104
Number of pages10
JournalTransactions of the American Fisheries Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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