Marine Environmental Research

Inter-regional variation in feeding patterns of skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) inferred from stomach content, stable isotope and fatty acid analyses

Publication date: December 2019

Source: Marine Environmental Research, Volume 152

Author(s): José L. Varela, José P. Cañavate, Antonio Medina, Gabriel Mourente

Abstract

Foraging habits of skipjack tuna, SKJ (Katsuwonus pelamis), were investigated in three Spanish marine regions (Balearic Sea, Alboran Sea and Gulf of Cadiz) using stomach content (SCA), stable isotope (SIA), and fatty acid (FA) analyses. The three methodological approaches yielded significant differences among locations. All the studied areas appear to serve as important foraging grounds for SKJ, but the diet composition significantly varied among them. The predominant prey species in the respective locations were the North Atlantic krill, Meganyctiphanes norvegica, in the Balearic Sea, the flyingfish, Exocœtus volitans, in the Alboran Sea, and the anchovy, Engraulis encrasicolus, in the Gulf of Cadiz. Regional differences were also found in δ13C and δ15N values; furthermore, the analysis of standard ellipse areas (SEAc) based on isotopic data showed that the broadest niche corresponded to SKJ from the Gulf of Cadiz, with no significant isotopic niche overlap between areas. Consistent with the SCA and stable isotope results, the FA composition varied among areas. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) was the most abundant FA in the SKJ muscle, showing its highest values in samples from the Gulf of Cadiz; this FA was the most effective in segregating SKJ geographical groups. In conclusion, this study provides evidence that SKJ in eastern Atlantic and western Mediterranean waters can easily adapt their diet to local prey availability. Furthermore, stable isotope signatures and FA profiles of muscle tissue prove to be reliable trophic markers that allow separation of populations occurring in different marine areas.

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