Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Camrin D Braun

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Braun, Camrin D.

Kaplan, Maxwell B.

Horodysky, Andrij Z.

Llopiz, Joel K.


Satellite telemetry reveals physical processes driving billfish behavior

, Animal Biotelemetry, January 2015

Pop-up satellite archival tags (PSATs) are capable of storing high-resolution behavioral and environmental information for extended periods of time (approximately 1?year), rendering them especially valuable for studying highly mobile species. In this review, we synthesize published PSAT data to understand the biophysical drivers that influence movements of billfishes (families Xiphiidae and Istiophoridae). To date, over 1,080 PSATs have been deployed on billfishes, with individuals demonstrating both trans-equatorial and trans-basin movements. Using this dataset, we identify four main physical variables that drive billfish behavior: temperature, light, oxygen, and complex water mixing (e.g. fronts and eddies). Of the seven species that have been studied with PSAT technology, all exhibited a strong thermal preference for water >22?C, though vertically migrating swordfish additionally occupied waters <10?C while at depth. Ambient light levels influence vertical movements, especially those associated with foraging, as billfish possess large eyes and thermoregulatory abilities that facilitate feeding behaviors below warm surface layers. Mounting evidence suggests that some billfishes actively avoid regions with low dissolved oxygen (<3.5?mL?L?1). Human-induced climate change is expected to increase the horizontal and vertical extent of hypoxic water and may further compress habitat and concentrate fishing pressure on pelagic fishes. Finally, complex submeso- and mesoscale processes provide critical habitat for spawning, larval feeding, and retention, but our understanding of these and other behavioral aspects of billfish biology remains limited. Future research efforts should leverage technical advancements while integrating existing and future tag data with chemical and physical oceanographic datasets to gain a better understanding of the relevant biophysical interactions for billfishes, thereby enhancing management capabilities for this ecologically and economically important group of fishes.

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