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Evaluating and using stable-isotope analysis to infer diet composition and foraging ecology of Adélie penguins Pygoscelis adeliae

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Tierney, M and Southwell, C and Emmerson, LM and Hindell, MA (2008) Evaluating and using stable-isotope analysis to infer diet composition and foraging ecology of Adélie penguins Pygoscelis adeliae. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 355. pp. 297-307. ISSN 0171-8630

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Abstract

We investigated whether diet composition determined from stable-isotope analysis (SIA) was similar to that determined from stomach content analysis for Adélie penguins Pygoscelis adeliae. We also used SIA to compare diet composition of adults and chicks and to evaluate intra- and inter-annual variations in diet and foraging ecology of adults over 2 consecutive breeding seasons (2001-2002 and 2002-2003) and 3 consecutive moulting seasons (2000-2001 to 2002-2003). Diet determined from SIA closely mirrored that determined from stomach contents at the broad taxonomic level (i.e. fish vs. krill). Diet composition did not differ between adults and chicks, but the more depleted δ13C values of adult blood suggest that adults may forage for themselves and provide their chicks with food from different locations. Adult δ13C signatures varied intra-annually with the most depleted values measured during the arrival period, followed by incubation, guard and then crèche. δ15N analyses indicated that krill and fish were being consumed prior to arrival at the breeding colonies and during incubation foraging trips, while the primary prey consumed during chick-rearing differed between years. δ15N did not vary in the pre-moult periods, with adult diet consisting primarily of krill in all 3 years, but the depleted δ13C signatures of feathers in 2000–2001 indicated that adults foraged farther from shore in that year. This study demonstrates that SIA is useful for monitoring diet and foraging areas of Adélie penguins at broad resolutions, particularly during periods when it is not possible to use conventional dietary techniques, although penguins may be most vulnerable to impacts such as commercial fishing during these periods as well.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Stable nitrogen · Stable carbon · Whole blood · Feathers · Antarctica
Journal or Publication Title: Marine Ecology Progress Series
Page Range: pp. 297-307
ISSN: 0171-8630
Identification Number - DOI: 10.3354/meps07235
Additional Information: Copyright © 2008 Inter-Research
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2009 00:35
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 03:56
URI: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/id/eprint/8468
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