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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 619:53-68 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12958

Stable isotope analysis indicates resource partitioning and trophic niche overlap in larvae of four tuna species in the Gulf of Mexico

Raúl Laiz-Carrión1,*, Trika Gerard2,3, Justin J. Suca4, Estrella Malca2,5, Amaya Uriarte1, José M. Quintanilla1, Sarah Privoznik2,5, Joel K. Llopiz4, John Lamkin2, Alberto García1

1Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centro Oceanográfico de Málaga, Fuengirola, Málaga, Puerto Pesquero s/n. 29640, Spain
2NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 75 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, FL 33149, USA
3University of Phoenix, South Florida Campus, 2400 SW 145 Ave, Miramar, FL 33027, USA
4Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Rd MS#33, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
5Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In this study we assessed the trophic ecology of bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus larvae from the Gulf of Mexico, together with the co-occurring larvae of blackfin tuna T. atlanticus, bullet tuna Auxis rochei, and skipjack Katsuwonus pelamis, using both bulk-tissue stable isotope analysis (SIAbulk) and compound-specific analysis of amino acids (CSIAAA). Bulk nitrogen (δ15Nbulk) and carbon (δ13Cbulk) values differed significantly among species, suggesting partitioning of resources due to an adaptive process allowing these tunas to share the ecosystem’s trophic resources during this early life period. K. pelamis had the largest isotopic niche width, likely due to piscivorous feeding at an earlier age compared to the other species, with an isotopic niche overlap of 17.5% with T. thynnus, 15.8% with T. atlanticus, and 31.2% with A. rochei. This trophic overlap suggests a mix of competition and trophic differentiation among these 4 species of tuna larvae. Higher nitrogen isotopic signatures in preflexion versus postflexion larvae of T. thynnus measured using both SIAbulk and CSIAAA indicate maternal isotopic transmission, as well as ‘capital breeder’-like characteristics. In contrast, the nitrogen isotopic ratios of the other 3 species were similar between ontogenetic stages. These observations suggest different breeding strategies within the study area for T. atlanticus, K. pelamis, and A. rochei compared to T. thynnus. No significant differences were observed among the 4 species’ trophic positions (TPs) estimated by CSIAAA, whereas a higher TP was observed for T. thynnus by SIAbulk. These differences in TP estimation may be attributed to discrepancies in baseline estimates.


KEY WORDS: Trophic ecology · Bluefin · Blackfin · Bullet · Skipjack · Tuna larvae · Stable isotope · CSIA · Trophic ecology · Isotopic niche · Breeding strategies


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Cite this article as: Laiz-Carrión R, Gerard T, Suca JJ, Malca E and others (2019) Stable isotope analysis indicates resource partitioning and trophic niche overlap in larvae of four tuna species in the Gulf of Mexico. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 619:53-68. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12958

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