Dynamic optimal foraging theory explains vertical migrations of bigeye tuna

Uffe Høgsbro Thygesen, Lene Sommer, Karen Evans, Toby A. Patterson

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Bigeye tuna are known for remarkable daytime vertical migrations between deep water, where food is abundant but the water is cold, and the surface, where water is warm but food is relatively scarce. Here we investigate if these dive patterns can be explained by dynamic optimal foraging theory, where the tuna maximizes its energy harvest rate. We assume that foraging efficiency increases with body temperature, so that the vertical migrations are thermoregulatory. The tuna's state is characterized by its mean body temperature and depth, and we solve the optimization problem numerically using dynamic programming. With little calibration of model parameters, our results are consistent with observed data on vertical movement: we find that small tuna should display constant-depth strategies while large tuna should display vertical migrations. The analysis supports the hypothesis that the tuna behaves such as to maximize its energy gains. The model therefore provides insight into the processes underlying observed behavioral patterns and allows generating predictions of foraging behavior in unobserved environments
Original languageEnglish
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1852-1861
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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