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Pelagic predator associations tuna and dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean

Scott Michael, D.; Chivers, S.J.; Olson, R.J.; Fiedler, P.C.; Holland, K.

Marine Ecology Progress Series 458: 283-302

2012


ISSN/ISBN: 0171-8630
Accession: 037453356

The association of yellowfin tuna and pantropical spotted dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP) has been exploited by tuna fishermen and has intrigued scientists for decades, yet we still have questions about what the benefits of the association are-whether the association is obligatory or facultative, why the tuna are most often found with spotted dolphins, and why the species associate most strongly in the ETP. We review the hypotheses that have been proposed to explain the bond and present results from 3 studies conducted to address these hypotheses: a simultaneous tracking study of spotted dolphins and yellowfin tuna, a trophic interactions study comparing their prey and daily foraging patterns, and a spatial study of oceanographic features correlated with the tuna-dolphin association. These studies demonstrate that the association is neither permanent nor obligatory and that the benefits of the association are not based on feeding advantages. These studies do support the hypothesis that one or both species reduce the risk of predation by forming large, mixed-species groups. The association is most prevalent where the habitat of the tuna is compressed to the warm, shallow, surface waters of the mixed layer by the oxygen minimum zone, a thick layer of oxygen-poor waters underlying the mixed layer. The association has been observed in other oceans with similar oceanographic conditions, but it is most prevalent and consistent in the ETP, where the oxygen minimum zone is the most hypoxic and extensive in the world.

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