Tuna

Last updated: March 30, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© J nel/Shutterstock.com

The tuna has a sleek body that enables it to swim quickly through the water


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Tuna Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Scombriformes
Family
Scombridae

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Tuna Conservation Status

Tuna Locations

Tuna Locations

Tuna Facts

Prey
Fish, crustaceans, cephalopods, and mollusks
Group Behavior
  • School
Fun Fact
The tuna has a sleek body that enables it to swim quickly through the water
Estimated Population Size
Millions
Biggest Threat
Overfishing
Most Distinctive Feature
The metallic blue, silvery color
Other Name(s)
Tunny
Gestation Period
A few days
Habitat
Oceans
Predators
Sharks, humans, whales
Diet
Omnivore
Type
Ray-finned fish
Common Name
Tuna
Number Of Species
15

Tuna Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Silver
Skin Type
Smooth
Top Speed
50 mph
Lifespan
Up to 40 years
Weight
Up to 2,000lbs
Length
Up to 4m (14ft)

View all of the Tuna images!



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Beloved by millions of people as a culinary delight for its rich, succulent taste, the mighty tuna fish roams the world’s oceans.

Its sleek, streamlined torpedo-shaped body makes it one of the fastest fish in the world and a rather capable predator.

Tuna fish is also a critical part of the world’s food supply, which has made it susceptible to overfishing.

3 Incredible Tuna Facts!

Dog Tooth Tuna, Underwater, 2015, Animal Wildlife, Animals In The Wild

The fish has a top speed of over 40 mph.

©iStock.com/Yann-HUBERT

  • The tuna fish is a migratory species that has no established home range. Some species travel thousands of miles per year.
  • The tuna fish has a vast network of blood vessels in its body that always keeps the body temperature above the temperature of the surrounding water.
  • The fish can swim at speeds of more than 40 mph.

Classification and Scientific Name

Bluefish tuna swims in the ocean with a fishing net in the background

Bluefish tuna swims in the ocean with a fishing net in the background



©Alexius Sutandio/Shutterstock.com

The scientific name of these fish is Thunnini. This seems to derive from the Ancient Greek word for tunny fish, which in turn means to run or dart along. Thunnini is actually an example of the taxonomical classification known as a tribe, which is situated between family and genus.

Evolution and Origins

The bluefin tuna came from an ancestor that produced heat externally. The oldest known fossils of tuna were discovered in the Tethys Sea deposits from the Middle East, southern Europe, and the London clay formation.

These fossils are from the late Paleocene (55-65 million years ago) or Early Eocene (50-55 million years ago) periods of the Tertiary era.

The western population of Atlantic bluefin tuna spawns in the Gulf of Mexico, while the eastern population spawns in the Mediterranean Sea.

These tuna used to be found throughout the Atlantic Ocean, but now they are mostly found in the North Atlantic Ocean and associated seas, including the Mediterranean Sea.

The 15 Different Types

There are around 15 species of Thunnini in the world.

©iStock.com/DeepAqua

There are some 15 species of Thunnini in the world. Most of these species belong to the genus Thunnus, the “true tuna.” The skipjack belongs to its own genus, Katsuwonus.

  • Skipjack Tuna: Although the skipjack isn’t among the true tuna species, it nevertheless has many of the hallmarks of these fish, including the same body shape, color, and appearance. As the smallest of the commercially fished species, it actually makes up much of the worldwide tuna catch.
  • Yellowfin Tuna: As the name implies, this species is covered in yellow fins, including a set of particularly long dorsal and anal fins that curve back almost to the tail.
  • Bluefin Tuna: The largest species by size, the bluefin is divided into a few different species, including the southern bluefin, Pacific bluefin, and Atlantic bluefin.
  • Albacore Tuna: Slightly larger than the skipjack, the albacore has very long pectoral side fins that reach almost the entire length of the body.

Here is the full list of all 15 types:

  1. Longtail Tuna
  2. Blackfin Tuna
  3. Pacific Bluefin Tuna
  4. Skipjack Tuna
  5. Yellow Tuna
  6. Little Tunny
  7. Albacore Tuna
  8. Bullet Tuna
  9. Mackerel Tuna
  10. Slender Tuna
  11. Black Skipjack Tuna
  12. Bigeye Tuna
  13. Southern Bluefin Tuna
  14. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
  15. Frigate Tuna

Appearance

Happy angler holding big tuna fish

The bluefin can grow up to an astonishing 2,000 pounds.

©Piotr Wawrzyniuk/Shutterstock.com

A true spectacle in the water, this is one of the largest fishes in the world. The bluefin can grow up to an enormous 2,000 pounds (the world record for a caught fish is 1,500), but realistically most species almost never grow larger than 500 pounds.

The fish is characterized by a long torpedo-shaped body tapering off to a forked or crescent tail. Most of the body is covered in smooth, shiny blue or silver metallic skin with scales adorning only certain segments. It also has small “finlets” leading up to the tail that look like little spikes.

Distribution, Population, and Habitat

Types of rare fish - Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), saltwater fish in the Mediterranean. This type of rare fish is a fierce predator that feeds on herring, mackerel, and other ocean fish.

©lunamarina/Shutterstock.com

These fish shows a preference for tropical and temperate waters all over the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. It occupies the pelagic zone, meaning all open oceans besides the coastline and bottom layer.

Although exact population numbers are not known, the oceans teem with millions of these fish. The annual catch is carefully managed by conservation organizations to prevent overfishing, but because of its migratory nature, this requires international cooperation.

Predators and Prey

These fish are among the top predators in the ecosystem. It keeps prey populations in check while providing an abundant meal for the few predators that do feed on it.

What does the tuna eat?

What Do Tuna Eat
Tuna Fish eat fish, crustaceans, squid, and herring.

These fish feed on all manner of shellfish, squid, and many species of perciform fish. Juvenile fish also consume plankton during the first crucial stage of life.

For a full analysis of the diets of tuna fish, make sure to read ‘What Do Tuna Eat? Their Diet Explained.

What eats the tuna?

Due to its size, only the largest predators feed on adult fish, including some species of sharks and whales. Seabirds and other fish species also consume the juveniles.

Reproduction and Lifespan

These fish are prolific breeders that can produce millions of eggs per year. Fertilized right in the water column of the open ocean, the eggs hatch after only a few days, although actual development to adulthood can take years. Tuna is relatively long-lived for a fish. While the yellowfin tuna only lives about seven years, some bluefin species can live up to 40 years in the wild.

Fishing and Cooking

These fish are a cornerstone of many people’s diets and one of the most popular commercial and recreational fishes in the world. Some 4.9 million tons of tuna were caught in 2016, most of which were skipjack.

This heavy reliance has led to plenty of over-exploitation. According to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, 13% of all tuna stocks are overfished worldwide.

Unlike the white meat of most fish, tuna has pink or dark red flesh thanks to the abundant quantity of oxygen-rich blood. Most of this tuna is canned light meat, but the higher quality meat can be served as sushi, sashimi, steaks, or any other fish recipe.

It’s also popular in sandwiches, salads, wraps, and grilled dishes. Regardless of the recipe, this fish is abundant in nutrition such as vitamins and good fats.

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About the Author

Rebecca is an experienced Professional Freelancer with nearly a decade of expertise in writing SEO Content, Digital Illustrations, and Graphic Design. When not engrossed in her creative endeavors, Rebecca dedicates her time to cycling and filming her nature adventures. When not focused on her passion for creating and crafting optimized materials, she harbors a deep fascination and love for cats, jumping spiders, and pet rats.

Tuna FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can dogs eat tuna?

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs may not be able to handle the tuna’s high mercury levels over the long run. However, you also shouldn’t worry too much if the dog sneaks off a bit of tuna since small amounts won’t do any harm.

Is tuna fish good for you?

Tuna contains an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to be good for heart health and cholesterol levels. However, mercury levels can accumulate in long-lived oceanic fish and then pass to humans. That is why many health organizations recommend limiting consumption of this fish. Bigeye tuna tends to have the highest mercury levels, while skipjack has the least. It’s best to limit your consumption to one to three servings per week.

Why is tuna so cheap?

If it has a cheap price, then it’s probably skipjack or albacore, the most common stocks.

Which type of tuna is most expensive?

Bluefin tends to be the most expensive tuna due to declining stocks and the desirability of its meat.

How many types of tuna are there?

There are some 15 species of tuna, but only skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye, and albacore are caught in large quantities. Bluefin only accounts for 1% of the global catch.

What is the estimated population size of Tunas?

There are millions of Tunas.

What are some distinguishing features of the Tuna?

The Tuna has a metallic blue, silvery coloration.

What is another name for the Tuna?

The Tuna is also called the tunny.

What is an interesting fact about the Tuna?

The tuna has a sleek body that enables it to swim quickly through the water.

How fast is a Tuna?

A Tuna can travel at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.

How do Tunas have babies?

Tunas lay eggs.

What's the difference between tuna and albacore?

Albacore is a type of tuna fish, but not all tuna fish is albacore. Read more about their specific differences here.

What are the key differences between a tuna and an escolar?

The key differences between a tuna and an escolar are appearance, health effects, and culinary uses.

What is the difference between sardine and tuna?

The greatest differences between sardines and tuna include their size and families. Sardines are small fish from five different genera that only reach about 12 inches and 4.5 pounds at their largest, but tuna can weigh anywhere from 3 pounds to 1,500 pounds and measure up to 15 feet long. Tuna also come from five different genera, but they do not share any of the same families as sardines. These massive differences make it easy to tell these creatures apart. We’re going to dig deep into five differences between them to show you just how unique these fish are despite both being popular foods for people.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/tuna-fish
  2. WWF, Available here: https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/tuna
  3. ISSF, Available here: https://iss-foundation.org/state-of-tuna-stocks-worldwide-assessed-in-comprehensive-issf-report-2

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