Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 12, pp 2363–2377 | Cite as

Variations in the diet and stable isotope ratios during the ovarian development of female yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) in the Western Indian Ocean

  • Iker ZudaireEmail author
  • Hilario Murua
  • Maitane Grande
  • Nicolas Goñi
  • Michel Potier
  • Frédéric Ménard
  • Emmanuel Chassot
  • Nathalie Bodin
Original Paper


The feeding strategy of female yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) during their reproductive cycle was investigated using a combination of different trophic tracers, i.e., stomach contents and dual stable isotope analysis, along with an assessment of ovarian development based on a histological analysis. To complete these analyses, we collected 215 female yellowfin from the Western Indian Ocean in 2009 and 2010. From these fish, we noted the ovarian development and analyzed the contents of 166 non-empty stomachs and 104 liver and muscle tissue samples. Stomach content analysis identified a large variety of prey species (45 prey families), key groups including crustaceans dominated by the swimming crab Charybdis smithii and crustacean larvae; fish dominated by the cigarfish Cubiceps pauciradiatus; and cephalopods dominated by ommastrephids Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis and Ornithoteuthis volatilis. Individuals capable of spawning appeared to feed intensively, particularly on cigarfish, during the reproductive period. From the mean reconstituted weight values of the preys, our results indicated that this intensive feeding led to increased amounts of acquired energy. The results of the stable isotope analyses, carried out on the muscle and liver tissues, indicated a clear decrease in values from north to south. These analyses also showed that liver δ15N values in spawning females were significantly lower than those in immature and developing individuals. This latter observation highlights the differences in metabolic processes that occur between tissues during ovarian development and underlines the importance of the liver in energy acquisition and mobilization in female yellowfin tuna during reproduction.


Prey Item Ovarian Development School Type Western Indian Ocean Yellowfin Tuna 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Dr. Y. Cherel for his assistance in identifying cephalopod species using small-sized beaks, X. Salaberria for his help in processing the samples, and J. Murua, G. Ocio, and A. Sanchez for the onboard collection of the samples. We also thank Dr. J.Alpine for her great professional proof reading service. This research benefited from the financial support of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the Basque Government, and the Pesquería Vasco Montañesa S.A. (PEVASA) fishing company. This work was partly funded by a Ph.D. grant of I. Zudaire Balerdi from the Fundación Centros Tecnológicos Iñaki Goenaga and Basque Government Postdoctoral grant. We are also grateful for the contribution received from the EMOTION Project (ANR JSV7 007 01). The experiments complied with the current laws of the countries in which they were performed. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest. This paper is contribution nº 734 from AZTI (Marine Research Department).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iker Zudaire
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Hilario Murua
    • 2
  • Maitane Grande
    • 2
  • Nicolas Goñi
    • 2
  • Michel Potier
    • 3
  • Frédéric Ménard
    • 4
  • Emmanuel Chassot
    • 5
  • Nathalie Bodin
    • 5
  1. 1.IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for ScienceBilbaoSpain
  2. 2.AZTI - Tecnalia, Marine Research DivisionPasaiaSpain
  3. 3.IRD - UMR 248 MARBEC CNRS/Ifremer/IRD/UMSèteFrance
  4. 4.IRD - MIO, Aix-Marseille Université/CNRS/IRD/Université de ToulonMarseilleFrance
  5. 5.IRD - UMR 248 MARBEC CNRS/Ifremer/IRD/UM, SFAVictoriaSeychelles

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