Spatial and temporal variation of diet within a presumed metapopulation of Adelie penguins

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We investigated temporal and spatial variability in the diet of chick-provisioning Ade??lie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) breeding at all colonies within one isolated cluster in the southwestern Ross Sea, Antarctica, 1994-2000. We wished to determine if prey quality explained different population growth and emigration rates among colonies. Diet composition was described both by conventional means (stomach samples) and by analysis of stable isotopes in chick tissues (toenails of individuals killed by skuas [Stercorarius maccormicki]). Diets were similar among the four study colonies compared to the disparity apparent among 14 widely spaced sites around the continent. Calorimetry indicated that fish are more energetically valuable than krill, implying that if diet varied by colony, diet quality could attract recruits and help to explain differential rates of colony growth. However, a multiple-regression analysis indicated that diet varied as a function of year, time within the year, and percent of foraging area covered by sea ice, but not by colony location. Stable isotopes revealed similarity of diet at one colony where conventional sampling was not possible. We confirmed that sea ice importantly affects diet composition of this species in neritic waters, and found that (1) quality of summer diet cannot explain different population growth rates among colonies, and (2) stable isotope analysis of chick tissues (toenails) is a useful tool to synoptically describe diet in this species over a large area.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Spatial and temporal variation of diet within a presumed metapopulation of Adelie penguins
Series title Condor
Volume 105
Issue 1
Year Published 2003
Language English
Description 12 p.
First page 95
Last page 106
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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