Seasonal consistency and individual variation in foraging strategies differ between and within Pygoscelis penguin populations in the Antarctic Peninsula region

Peer Reviewed

Rachael W. Herman; Fernanda C. L. Valls; Tom Hart; Maria V. Petry; Wayne Z. Trivelpiece; Michael J. Polito

Marine Biology, Issue 164, 2017, 10.1007/s00227-017-3142-9.

Past research during the breeding season in the Antarctic Peninsula region indicates that gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are generalist foragers whereas Adélie (P. adeliae) and chinstrap (P. antarcticus) penguins tend to specialize on Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). However, little is known about the degree of temporal consistency in the diets and foraging habitats of these three species, particularly at the individual level. Such year-round and inter-annual dietary understanding is important to help interpret contrasting trends in their populations. We used carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis of blood and feathers to evaluate seasonal shifts in diet and individual foraging consistency within Pygoscelis penguin species breeding in the South Shetland Islands as well as among three geographically distinct gentoo penguin populations in the western Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands. We found that gentoo penguins exhibited a generalist foraging strategy with individual consistency, Adélie penguins exhibited an intermediate generalist foraging strategy with little individual consistency, and chinstrap penguins exhibited a specialized diet with little inter-individual variation. Our results also indicated that all three species have greater variation in foraging habitat use during the post-breeding season compared to the breeding season. Finally, we observed differences in the degree of seasonal shifts in population level diet and consistency in foraging strategies at the individual level across the three gentoo penguin populations examined. This suggests that Pygoscelis penguins can differ in diets and foraging habitat use not only at the population level among species, sites, and seasons, but also in the level of variation within populations, and in the degree of seasonal consistency among individuals.

Categories: Antarctic, Natural Science