MEPS 143:1-8 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps143001

Use of the bomb radiocarbon chronometer to determine age of southern bluefin tuna Thunnus maccoyii

Kalish JM, Johnston JM, Gunn JS, Clear NP

The growing otoliths of fish incorporate radiocarbon in concentrations that are equivalent to that found in ambient seawater dissolved inorganic carbon. Therefore, pulses of anthropogenic radiocarbon produced by the atmospheric detonation of nuclear weapons can ultimately be detected in otoliths. This study estimates the age of large southern bluefin tuna Thunnus maccoyii using an age estimation procedure based on the determination of levels of bomb-derived radiocarbon in their otoliths. Radiocarbon data from selected regions of southern bluefin tuna otoliths indicate that this species may reach ages in excess of 30 yr. Furthermore, individuals that approach the asymptotic length are likely to be 20 yr of age or older. The data agree generally with accepted models of southern bluefin growth, but show that these fish live longer than was believed previously. Comparisons between otolith section and bomb radiocarbon age estimates indicate that reading otolith sections is an effective method to estimate the age of larger southern bluefin. The presence of a significant number of individuals greater than 20 yr of age in the southern bluefin population may alter estimates of natural mortality rates currently used in Virtual Population Analysis models for stock assessment of this species.


Age validation · Bomb radiocarbon chronometer · Carbon · Otoliths · Radiocarbon · Southern bluefin tuna · Thunnus maccoyii


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