Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) foraging habitat and trophic position in the Gulf of Mexico based on intrinsic isotope tracers

Meliza Le-Alvarado, Alfonsina E. Romo-Curiel, Oscar Sosa-Nishizaki, Oscar Hernández-Sánchez, Leticia Barbero, Sharon Z. Herzka

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1 Scopus citations


Yellowfin tuna (YFT, Thunnus albacares) is a commercially important species targeted by fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico (GM). Previous studies suggest a high degree of residency in the northern GM, although part of the population performs movements to southern Mexican waters. Whether YFT caught in southern waters also exhibit residency or migrate to the northern gulf is currently uncertain, and little is known regarding their trophic ecology. The isotopic composition (bulk & amino acids) of YFT muscle and liver tissues were compared to a zooplankton-based synoptic isoscape from the entire GM to infer feeding areas and estimate Trophic Position (TP). The spatial distribution of δ15Nbulk and δ15NPhe values of zooplankton indicated two distinct isotopic baselines: one with higher values in the northern GM likely driven by denitrification over the continental shelf, and another in the central-southern gulf, where nitrogen fixation predominates. Based on the contribution of the two regional isotopic baselines to YFT tissues, broad feeding areas were inferred, with a greater contribution of the northern GM (over a one-year time scale by muscle), and to a lesser extent in the central-southern GM (over the ca. 6-month scale by liver). This was corroborated by similarities in δ15NPhe values between YFT and the northern GM. TP estimates were calculated based on stable isotope analysis of bulk (SIA) and compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA-AA) of the canonical source and trophic amino acids. Mean TP based on SIA was 4.9 ± 1.0 and mean TP based on CSIA-A was 3.9 ± 0.2. YFT caught within the Mexican region seem to feed in northern and in central and southern GM, while feeding in the northern GM has a temporal component. Thus, management strategies need to consider that YFT caught in US and Mexican waters are a shared binational resource that exhibit feeding migrations within the GM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0246082
JournalPloS one
Issue number2 February 2021
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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