Trophic niche overlap among dolphinfish and co-occurring tunas near the northern edge of their range in the western North Atlantic

Research paper by Amy K. Teffer, Michelle D. Staudinger, Francis Juanes

Indexed on: 18 Aug '15Published on: 18 Aug '15Published in: Marine Biology


We present the first quantitative analyses of dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) foraging habits and trophic interactions with co-occurring yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and albacore (T. alalunga) tunas in the Southern New England region of the western North Atlantic Ocean. Fish caught by recreational anglers in offshore waters of Massachusetts were sampled during the summers of 2007–2010. Diet analysis revealed that shortfin squid (Illex illecebrosus) and small pelagic crustaceans were principal prey to dolphinfish, yellowfin tuna, and albacore tuna. A wide variety of Sargassum-associated fishes were also important to dolphinfish and yellowfin tuna diets. Dietary (Schoener’s index: 0.82–0.86) and isotopic niche (isotopic ellipse overlap: 53.6–64.7 %) overlap was high, and dolphinfish and tunas occupied equivalent trophic positions (TP = 3.4–3.6). Relative prey size in dolphinfish and yellowfin tuna diets exhibited convergence with ontogeny. Overall, dolphinfish had the greatest isotopic niche width, which was twice as large as yellowfin tuna and three times as large as albacore tuna; dolphinfish also consumed the greatest range of prey sizes. Results quantify dolphinfish trophic interactions in the western Atlantic near the northern extent of their geographical range, and are relevant for ecosystem-based management of the offshore pelagic guild in the context of shifting fish populations and fisheries in response to climate and ecological change.