Overview

Comprehensive Description

Diversity

The family Scombridae, the mackerels, tunas, and bonitos, includes some of the world’s most popular food and sport fishes. The family also boasts the fastest-swimming fishes in the world, and bluefin tunas are probably the largest of all bony fishes. Scombrids’ size, speed, and popularity are related to their high degree of adaptation to a pelagic, nomadic existence. Their bodies are formed to maximize swimming efficiency, and tunas even have a vascular heat exchange system that allows for prolonged swimming in colder water (see Physical Description). Smaller mackerels often live closer to shore, but other mackerels, tunas, and bonitos roam deeper waters, often in wide migratory patterns (see Habitat). Due to their great range and extensive use as food fish, scombrids bear many common names and have long been familiar to humans. Bonitos, for example, appear in Captain Cook’s journals. Human influence, however, has rendered at least five species endangered or vulnerable to extinction. The family Scombridae is comprised of two tribes, subdivided into 15 genera and 49 species.

  • Wheeler, A. 1985. The world encyclopedia of fishes. London: Macdonald.
  • Nelson, J. 1994. Fishes of the World – third edition. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.
  • Helfman, G., B. Collete, D. Facey. 1997. The Diversity of Fishes. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Johnson, G., A. Gill. 1998. Perches and Their Allies. Pp. 190 in W Eschmeyer, J Paxton, eds. Encyclopedia of Fishes – second edition. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  • The World Conservation Union, 2002. "IUCN 2002" (On-line). 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed September 16, 2003 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/.
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Distribution

Geographic Range

Tunas, mackerels, and bonitos can be found worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas, with many species traveling periodically into cool temperate waters.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Native ); indian ocean (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native ); pacific ocean (Native ); mediterranean sea (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: cosmopolitan

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Scombrids (tunas, mackerels, and bonitos) have streamlined bodies that taper on either end, moderately large mouths, and well-developed teeth. Gill membranes are not attached to the isthmus. Scales are cycloid and usually tiny, and body coloration is metallic, often blue and silver. Spanish mackerels have yellow to bronze spots and bonitos and tunas may have dusky bands and fins. The dorsal fin is composed of nine to 27 densely packed rays, and the pelvic fins have six rays. One member of the family, bluefin tuna, can reach 4.2 m and are probably the world’s largest bony fishes. Scombrids are highly adapted to continuous swimming in the open ocean. Their bodies are an ideal streamlined shape, with the thickest part of the body occurring two-fifths of the way back from the head. Their dorsal fins can slot into grooves to reduce drag, and the caudal fin is stiff and sickle-shaped for powerful propulsion. The five to 12 separate finlets behind the anal and second dorsal fins may allow the tail to push against less turbulence by preventing vortices from forming in water flowing toward the tail. The slender caudal peduncle bears at least two keels that reduce drag and may accelerate water flowing over the tail. (Click here to see a   fish diagram).

Tunas are negatively buoyant and must swim continuously to avoid sinking. In addition, they require constant movement to ventilate the gills. Through a process called ram gill ventilation, swimming (at speeds no less than 65 cm per second) forces water over the gills. Tunas have numerous lamellae (gill membranes) and very thin lamellar walls, and are able to extract more oxygen from the water than any other fish. Tunas have large hearts and blood volumes. They also have a high proportion of the red muscle that permits sustained swimming, buried centrally along the spinal column to conserve heat. Other members of the family, such as the mackerels, also have red muscle, but located nearer the outside of the fish.

One of the most striking features of the scombrids is that some groups are endothermic, able to maintain a body temperature higher than that of the surrounding water. Tunas (tribe Thunnini) conserve heat produced by swimming muscles through an arrangement of blood vessels called a rete mirabile (“wonderful net”). These blood vessels act as a countercurrent heat-exchanger. In any fish, when blood cycles through the gills to receive oxygen, it also cools to the temperature of the surrounding water. In tunas, this blood is diverted to vessels near the outside of the body instead of traveling directly through the fish’s core. Before flowing inward, the cool, oxygenated blood passes through a network of small vessels, countercurrent to warm blood leaving the swimming muscles, and heat is transferred to the entering blood. In this way much of the heat generated by swimming muscles is conserved. In waters ranging from 7 to 30˚ C, bluefin tuna maintain muscle temperatures between 28 and 33 C. Others keep body temperatures 3 to 7 degrees C warmer than the surrounding water. Some species, such as bigeye tuna, utilize the heat exchanger only when they enter colder water. Endothermy also helps warm parts of the central nervous system, which stabilizes nervous system function in cold water. Butterfly mackerels keep brain and eye temperatures elevated using thermogenic (heat-producing) tissue. (Click here to see a diagram of   tuna thermoregulation).

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Moyle, P., J. Cech. 2000. Fishes: An introduction to ichthyology – fourth edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Allen, G., D. Robertson. 1994. Fishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.
  • Böhlke, J., C. Chaplin. 1968. Fishes of the Bahamas and Adjacent Tropical Waters. Wynnewood, PA: Published for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia by Livingston.
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Diagnostic Description

Description

Distribution: tropical and subtropical seas. The 2 dorsal fins separate and depressible into grooves. Finlets following anal and posterior dorsal fins. Origin of anterior dorsal fin well behind the head. Pectoral fins high on body. Pelvic fins below pectorals, with 6 fin rays. Gill membranes not united to isthmus. Small cycloid scales present. Two keels on slender caudal peduncle. Thunnus and close relatives with a specialized vascular system for heat exchange; the evolution of this and related adaptations for endothermy are discussed in Brock et al. 1993 Science 260:210-214. Thunninae=ISSCAAP 36; Scombrinae=ISSCAAP 37.
  • MASDEA (1997).
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Ecology

Habitat

Scombrids are, for the most part, pelagic (open-ocean) fishes living in tropical and subtropical seas. Some species make seasonal forays into cool temperate or cold waters. Some, especially the smaller mackerels, remain near coastlines, while many others roam deeper waters. They are a marine family, although some groups occur in brackish water, and one normally marine species, Scomberomorus sinensis, has been found in fresh water 300 km up the Mekong River. Many groups within Scombridae tend to remain near the surface and over the continental shelf.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; saltwater or marine ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: pelagic ; coastal ; brackish water

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Scombrids are active predators that feed on a wide range of organisms. The diet of a single species may include crabs, shrimps, squids, crustaceans, the larvae of fishes and invertebrates, and fishes several feet long. Some smaller species strain zooplankton through their gill rakers. Tunas feed on a variety of mid-water and surface fishes, with mackerel providing a favorite meal. Tunas’ ability to maintain elevated body temperatures enables them to swiftly pursue prey in the cold waters of deeper depths and higher latitudes. Migratory tunas have the fastest digestion rates and highest metabolic rates of any fish.

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)

  • Froese, R., D. Pauly, D. Woodland. 2003. "Fish Base" (On-line). FishBase World Wide Web electronic publication. Accessed September 16, 2003 at http://www.fishbase.org/.
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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Scombrids are major predators in pelagic habitats. As such they impact the populations of the many organisms on which they feed, from zooplankton to fish larvae to large fish. They, in turn, provide food for each other, large fishes, porpoises, seals, and seabirds.

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Predation

Some of the smaller species, such as Scomber japonicus, are food for a large number of predators, from fishes and porpoises to seals and seabirds. Mackerels are fed upon by large tunas, other large fishes, and sharks. Tunas, even large ones, must watch out for the temperate and warm temperate swordfish Xiphias gladius and other tropical sailfishes, spearfishes and marlins (Istiophorus, Tetrapturus, Makaira). Humans are a predator shared by all the scombrids.

Known Predators:

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Known predators

Scombridae is prey of:
Homo sapiens
Chondrichthyes
Scombridae
Aves
Istiophoridae
Phocidae
Phocoenidae
Xiphias

Based on studies in:
USA: Rhode Island (Coastal)
USA, Northeastern US contintental shelf (Coastal)
South Africa, Southwest coast (Marine)
Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands shelf (Reef)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • J. N. Kremer and S. W. Nixon, A Coastal Marine Ecosystem: Simulation and Analysis, Vol. 24 of Ecol. Studies (Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1978), from p. 12.
  • Link J (2002) Does food web theory work for marine ecosystems? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 230:1–9
  • Opitz S (1996) Trophic interactions in Caribbean coral reefs. ICLARM Tech Rep 43, Manila, Philippines
  • Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2006. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed February 16, 2011 at http://animaldiversity.org. http://www.animaldiversity.org
  • Yodzis P (2000) Diffuse effects in food webs. Ecology 81:261–266
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Known prey organisms

Scombridae preys on:
Ethmidium maculatum
benthic carnivores
Engraulidae
Clupeidae
Etrumeus teres
Gonostomatidae
Diaphus splendidus
Callogobius atratus
Actinopterygii
Trachurus
Scomber japonicus
Merluccius
Cephalopoda
Chondrichthyes
Scombridae
Carangidae
Hemiramphidae
decomposers/microfauna
phytoplankton
organic stuff
Scaridae
benthic autotrophs
Blenniidae
Octopus
Decapoda
Stomatopoda
Anomura
Gastropoda
Scaphopoda
Neoloricata
Priapula
Polychaeta
Ophiuroidea
Bivalvia
Ctenophora
Ammodytes marinus
Clupea harengus
Alosa pseudoharengus
Scomber
Peprilus triacanthus
Actinonaias ellipsiformis
Tridonta arctica
Merluccius bilinearis
Urophycis regia
Urophycis tenuis
Urophycis chuss
Mustelus canis
Squalus acanthias
non-insect arthropods

Based on studies in:
USA: Rhode Island (Coastal)
South Africa, Southwest coast (Marine)
Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands shelf (Reef)
USA, Northeastern US contintental shelf (Coastal)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • J. N. Kremer and S. W. Nixon, A Coastal Marine Ecosystem: Simulation and Analysis, Vol. 24 of Ecol. Studies (Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1978), from p. 12.
  • Link J (2002) Does food web theory work for marine ecosystems? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 230:1–9
  • Opitz S (1996) Trophic interactions in Caribbean coral reefs. ICLARM Tech Rep 43, Manila, Philippines
  • Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2006. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed February 16, 2011 at http://animaldiversity.org. http://www.animaldiversity.org
  • Yodzis P (2000) Diffuse effects in food webs. Ecology 81:261–266
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

No information was found regarding communication in Scombridae.

Perception Channels: visual

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Life Cycle

Development

Carried by the same current system as adults, scombrid larvae and juveniles grow and feed along with mature individuals. In at least one species, Atlantic mackerel, eggs hatch in two to five days depending on the temperature. Mackerel grow quickly and can reach 24 cm in a year.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

No information was found regarding lifespan of fishes in Scombridae.

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Reproduction

No information was found regarding mating systems in Scombridae.

Scombrids, with the exception of bluefin tunas, spawn repeatedly. Some, like Scomber scombrus (Atlantic mackerel), spawn all summer long. Female mackerels produce, on average, about half a million eggs, which float near the surface. Bluefin tunas spawn in tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and spend the rest of the year feeding in temperate regions.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding

No information was found regarding parental care in Scombridae.

  • Wheeler, A. 1985. The world encyclopedia of fishes. London: Macdonald.
  • Helfman, G., B. Collete, D. Facey. 1997. The Diversity of Fishes. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:2,289Public Records:1,250
Specimens with Sequences:2,136Public Species:44
Specimens with Barcodes:2,011Public BINs:39
Species:53         
Species With Barcodes:52         
          
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Scombridae

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Conservation

Conservation Status

As of 1994 there were several threatened species in Scombridae. Scomberomorus concolor (Monterrey Spanish mackerel) was listed as endangered, and Thunnus maccoyyii (southern bluefin tuna) as critically endangered; in other words both face severe threat of extinction. Thunnus obesus (bigeye tuna) was listed as vulnerable, and two others, Thunnus alalunga (albacore tuna) and Thunnus orientalis (northern bluefin tuna) may be threatened as well.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No specific information was found concerning any negative impacts to humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Most scombrids (tunas, mackerels, and bonitos) are important food, commercial, and sport fishes. In some parts of the world, i.e. the Mediterranean and Californian coasts, tunas have been fished locally for many years, but heavy commercial exploitation of open-ocean tunas has led in some cases to depletion of tuna populations. Much of the tuna catch is harvested for canning. Apparently the flesh of king mackerel has occasionally been toxic when eaten.

Positive Impacts: food

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Wikipedia

Scombridae

Scombridae is the family of the mackerels, tunas, and bonitos, and thus includes many of the most important and familiar food fishes. The family consists of 51 species in 15 genera and two subfamilies. All species are in the subfamily Scombrinae, except the butterfly kingfish - which is the sole member of subfamily Gasterochismatinae.[1]

Scombrids have two dorsal fins, and a series of finlets behind the rear dorsal fin and anal fin. The caudal fin is strongly divided and rigid, with a slender, ridged, base. The first (spiny) dorsal fin and the pelvic fins are normally retracted into body grooves. Species lengths vary from the 20 cm (7.9 in) of the island mackerel to the 4.58 m (15.0 ft) recorded for the immense Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Scombrids are generally predators of the open ocean, and are found worldwide in tropical and temperate waters. They are capable of considerable speed, due to a highly streamlined body and retractable fins. Some members of the family, in particular the tunas, are notable for being partially endothermic (warm-blooded), a feature that also helps them to maintain high speed and activity. Other adaptations include a large amount of red muscle, allowing them to maintain activity over long periods. Two of the fastest recorded scombrids are the wahoo and the yellowfin tuna, which can each attain speeds of 75 km/h (47 mph).[2][3]

Contents

Classification

Jordan, Evermann and Clark (1930) divide these fishes into the four families Cybiidae, Katsuwonidae, Scombridae, and Thunnidae,[4] but taxonomists later classified them all into a single family, Scombridae.[5][6]

There are 51 extant species in fifteen genera and two subfamilies – with the subfamily Scombrinae further grouped into four tribes, as follows:

Family Scombridae

Timeline of genera

QuaternaryNeogenePaleogeneHolocenePleist.Plio.MioceneOligoceneEocenePaleoceneEuthynnusMatarchiaGrammatorcynusGymnosardaThunnusScomberomorusScomberWetherellusPalaeothunnusSarda (genus)SphyraenodusLandanichthysQuaternaryNeogenePaleogeneHolocenePleist.Plio.MioceneOligoceneEocenePaleocene

See also

References

  1. ^ Orrell, T.M.; Collette, B.B; Johnson, G.D. (2006). "Molecular data support separate Scombroid and Xiphioid Clades" (PDF). Bulletin of Marine Science 79 (3): 505–519. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/search/download?pub=infobike%3a%2f%2fumrsmas%2fbullmar%2f2006%2f00000079%2f00000003%2fart00007&mimetype=application%2fpdf. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Johnson, G.D. & Gill, A.C. (1998). Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N.. ed. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 190. ISBN 0-12-547665-5. 
  3. ^ Block, Barbara A.; Booth, David; Carey, Francis G. (1992). "Direct measurement of swimming speeds and depth of blue marlin" (PDF). Journal of Experimental Biology (Company of Biologists Ltd.) 166: 267–284. ISSN 0022-0949. http://jeb.biologists.org/content/166/1/267.full.pdf. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  4. ^ David Starr Jordan, Barton Warren Evermann and H. Walton Clark (1930). Report of the Commission for 1928. U.S. Commission for Fish and Fisheries, Washington, D.C.. 
  5. ^ "Gasterochisma melampus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=202065. Retrieved 18 April 2006. 
  6. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2006). "Scombridae" in FishBase. January 2006 version.
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