Little Tunny (Euthynnus alletteratus)

Although not part of the Thunnusgenus like many tuna, the little tunny is a member of the same Scombridae family and is one of the finest small gamefish available. It is frequently misnamed "false albacore" and "bonito".

Other Names

little tuna, Atlantic little tunny, false albacore, bonito; French: thonine de l’Atlantique; Italian: tonnetto dell’ Atlantico, tonnella sanguinaccio, alletterato; Japanese: yaito, suma-rui; Portuguese: merma; Spanish: bacoreta del Atl├íntico, merma, barrilete, carachana pintada.


The little tunny has a scattering of dark spots resembling fingerprints between the pectoral and the ventral fins, as well as wavy, "wormlike" markings on the back. These markings are above the lateral line within a well-marked border and never extend farther forward than about the middle of the first dorsal fin.

The spots and the markings are unlike those of any other Atlantic species. The pectoral and the ventral fins are short and broad, and the two dorsal fins are separated at the base by a small space. The body has no scales except on the corselet and along the lateral line, and there is no air bladder. Unlike the black skipjack, it has no teeth on the vomer.

The little tunny is often confused with the Atlantic bonito, the skipjack tuna, the frigate mackerel, and the bullet mackerel. There are, however, differences among these species. The Atlantic bonito has a lower, sloping first dorsal fin. The frigate and the bullet mackerel have the dorsal fins set apart. The skipjack tuna has broad, straight stripes on the belly and lacks markings on the back.


Little tunny may attain a length of 40 inches but are most common to 25 inches. The all-tackle world record is an Algerian fish that weighed 35 pounds, 2 ounces.

Spawning behavior

Little tunny reach sexual maturity at approximately 15 inches in length. Spawning occurs from about April through November.

Food and feeding habits

Little tunny are common in inshore waters near the surface, where they feed on squid, crustaceans, fish larvae, and large numbers of smaller pelagic fish, especially herring.


This species occurs in tropical and warm temperate waters of the Atlantic Ocean; in the western Atlantic, it ranges from the New England states and Bermuda south to Brazil. It is not as migratory as other tuna species are and is found regularly in inshore waters, as well as offshore, usually in large schools.