FCE LTER Journal Articles


Keeping up with the Silver King: Using cooperative acoustic telemetry networks to quantify the movements of Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) in the coastal waters of the southeastern United States


Understanding the nature of migratory behaviors within animal populations is critical to develop and refine conservation and management plans. However, tracking migratory marine animals across life stages and over multiple years is inherently difficult to achieve, especially for highly migratory species. In this paper, we explore the use of acoustic telemetry to characterize the spatial ecology of Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), elucidate the ecology of this poorly studied species, and ultimately inform conservation and management. Using the data from twenty-two acoustically tagged Atlantic tarpon, we found a diversity of tarpon migratory patterns, including spatial and temporal overlap for some individuals. We also reveal fine scale movements within specific ecosystems, as well as a range of distributions and connectivity across coastal waters of the southeastern United States of America. For tarpon with tracking durations greater than one month (n = 13), we found heterogeneous space use and migratory connectivity with some tarpon remaining close to their capture location while others migrated hundreds of kilometers. In addition, we were able to identify a northern and southern limit for one migratory tarpon that had detections spanning over 365 days. We share analyses on Atlantic tarpon data, including model-driven approaches and network analysis, to investigate movement strategies and space use, which may be pertinent to other studies involving highly migratory species. The project was a collaborative effort involving several acoustic telemetry networks which enabled the monitoring of broad- and fine-scale movements for extended periods of time that would normally be difficult to achieve with other monitoring techniques. Although challenges exist with applying acoustic telemetry to monitor highly migratory species, we also discuss its value in enabling researchers to assess movements and space use beyond the focal species, such as cross-ecosystem comparisons and multi-species interactions.



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