Direct quantification of energy intake in an apex marine predator suggests physiology is a key driver of migrations

Sci Adv. 2015 Sep 25;1(8):e1400270. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1400270. eCollection 2015 Sep.


Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) are highly migratory apex marine predators that inhabit a broad thermal niche. The energy needed for migration must be garnered by foraging, but measuring energy intake in the marine environment is challenging. We quantified the energy intake of Pacific bluefin tuna in the California Current using a laboratory-validated model, the first such measurement in a wild marine predator. Mean daily energy intake was highest off the coast of Baja California, Mexico in summer (mean ± SD, 1034 ± 669 kcal), followed by autumn when Pacific bluefin achieve their northernmost range in waters off northern California (944 ± 579 kcal). Movements were not always consistent with maximizing energy intake: the Pacific bluefin move out of energy rich waters both in late summer and winter, coincident with rising and falling water temperatures, respectively. We hypothesize that temperature-related physiological constraints drive migration and that Pacific bluefin tuna optimize energy intake within a range of optimal aerobic performance.

Keywords: Bio-Logging; Foraging ecology; Migration; Physiology; bluefin tuna; heat increment of feeding.