Spatial distribution and movement of Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Academic Article uri icon


  • Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) are capable of long-distance migrations (hundreds of kilometers) but also exhibit resident behaviors in estuarine and coastal habitats. The aim of this study was to characterize the spatial distribution of juvenile tarpon and identify migration pathways of adult tarpon in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Spatial distribution of juvenile tarpon was investigated using gillnet data collected by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) over the past four decades. Generalized additive models (GAMs) indicated that salinity and water temperature played a significant role in tarpon presence, with tarpon occurrences peaking in the fall and increasing over the past four decades in this region. Adult tarpon caught off Texas (n = 40) and Louisiana (n = 4) were tagged with acoustic transmitters to characterize spatial and temporal trends in their movements and migrations. Of the 44 acoustic transmitters deployed, 18 of the individuals were detected (n = 16 west of the Mississippi River Delta and n = 2 east of the Mississippi River Delta). Tarpon tagged west of the Mississippi River Delta off Texas migrated south in the fall and winter into areas of south Texas and potentially into Mexico, while individuals tagged east of the delta migrated into Florida during the same time period, suggesting the presence of two unique migratory contingents or subpopulations in this region. An improved understanding of the habitat requirements and migratory patterns of tarpon inhabiting the Gulf of Mexico is critically needed by resource managers to assess the vulnerability of each contingent to fishing pressure, and this information will guide multi-state and multi-national conservation efforts to rebuild and sustain tarpon populations.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

author list (cited authors)

  • Stephens, S. A., Dance, M. A., Zapp Sluis, M., Kline, R. J., Streich, M. K., Stunz, G. W., ... Rooker, J. R.

complete list of authors

  • Stephens, Shane A||Dance, Michael A||Zapp Sluis, Michelle||Kline, Richard J||Streich, Matthew K||Stunz, Gregory W||Adams, Aaron J||Wells, RJ David||Rooker, Jay R

editor list (cited editors)

  • Rodrigues, C. F.

publication date

  • January 2024