Specific dynamic action (SDA) is defined as the energy expended during ingestion, digestion, absorption and assimilation of a meal. This study presents the first data on the SDA response of individual tunas of any species. Juvenile Pacific bluefin tunas (Thunnus orientalis; body mass 9.7-11.0 kg; N=7) were individually fed known quantities of food consisting primarily of squid and sardine (meal energy range 1680-8749 kJ, approximately 4-13% of tuna body mass). Oxygen consumption rates (M(O2)) were measured in a swim tunnel respirometer during the postprandial period at a swimming speed of 1 body length (BL) s(-1) and a water temperature of 20 degrees C. was markedly elevated above routine levels in all fish following meal consumption [routine metabolic rate (RMR)=174+/-9 mg kg(-1) h(-1)]. The peak M(O2) during the SDA process ranged from 250 to 440 mg kg(-1) h(-1) (1.5-2.3 times RMR) and was linearly related to meal energy content. The duration of the postprandial increment in M(O2) ranged from 21 h to 33 h depending upon meal energy content. Consequently, the total energy used in SDA increased linearly with meal energy and ranged from 170 kJ to 688 kJ, such that the SDA process accounted for 9.2+/-0.7% of ingested energy across all experiments. These values suggest rapid and efficient food conversion in T. orientalis in comparison with most other fishes. Implanted archival temperature tags recorded the increment in visceral temperature (T(V)) in association with SDA. M(O2) returned to routine levels at the end of the digestive period 2-3 h earlier than T(V). The qualitative patterns in M(O2) and T(V) during digestion were similar, strengthening the possibility that archival measurements of T(V) can provide new insight into the energetics and habitat utilization of free-swimming bluefin in the natural environment. Despite efficient food conversion, SDA is likely to represent a significant component of the daily energy budget of wild bluefin tunas due to a regular and high ingestion of forage.