The junk-food hypothesis attributes declines in productivity of marine birds and mammals to changes in the species of prey they consume and corresponding differences in nutritional quality of those prey. To test this hypothesis nestling Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) and Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) were raised in captivity under controlled conditions to determine whether the type and quality of fish consumed by young seabirds constrains their growth and development. Some nestlings were fed rations of Capelin (Mallotus villosus), Herring (Clupea pallasi) or Sand Lance (Ammodytes hexapterus) and their growth was compared with nestlings raised on equal biomass rations of Walleye Pollock (Theragra chalcograma). Nestlings fed rations of herring, sand lance, or capelin experienced higher growth increments than nestlings fed pollock. The energy density of forage fish fed to nestlings had a marked effect on growth increments and could be expected to have an effect on pre- and post-fledging survival of nestlings in the wild. These results provide empirical support for the junk-food hypothesis.
Additional publication details
Testing the junk-food hypothesis on marine birds: Effects of prey type on growth and development