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Spike dives of juvenile southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii): a navigational role?

  • Jay Willis
  • John Phillips
  • Rachel Muheim
  • Francisco Javier Diego-Rasilla
  • Alistair J. Hobday
Publishing year: 2009
Language: English
Pages: 57-68
Publication/Series: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume: 64
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

Tunas make sharp descents and ascents around dawn and dusk called spike dives. We examine spike dives of 21 southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) implanted with archival tags in the Great Australian Bight. Using a new way to categorize this behavior, we show that spike dives are similar among all the fish in the study. The dive profiles are mirror images at dawn and dusk and are precisely timed with respect to sunrise and sunset. We analyze the possible reasons for spike dives, considering the timing of spike dives, the characteristic dive profile, and the tuna's magnetic habitat. In addition, we present anatomical evidence for elaboration of the pineal organ, which is light mediated and has been implicated in navigation in other vertebrates. The new evidence presented here leads us to suspect that spike dives represent a survey related to navigation.


  • Zoology
  • Polarized light
  • Magnetic navigation
  • Compass
  • Migration
  • Pineal gland
  • Archival tags


  • ISSN: 1432-0762
Rachel Muheim
E-mail: rachel [dot] muheim [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Functional zoology

+46 46 222 31 93



Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
Ecology building S-223 62 Lund Sweden