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Variability in at-sea foraging behaviour of little penguins Eudyptula minor in response to fine-scale environmental features


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Phillips, LR, Hindell, M ORCID: 0000-0002-7823-7185, Hobday, AJ and Lea, M-A ORCID: 0000-0001-8318-9299 2019 , 'Variability in at-sea foraging behaviour of little penguins Eudyptula minor in response to fine-scale environmental features' , Marine Ecology - Progress Series, vol. 627 , pp. 141-154 , doi: 10.3354/meps13095.

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A long-standing question in ecology is how predators interact with their environment when locating patchily distributed prey. There is some evidence to suggest that marine predators use environmental features as foraging cues at meso-scales (100-1000 km); however, the role of environmental structure at finer scales (1-100 km) is less well understood. To investigate how marine predators respond to fine-scale environmental variability, the movement patterns of 29 GPS-tagged little penguins Eudyptula minor from 3 colonies in the highly variable Storm Bay ecosystem in south-eastern Tasmania, Australia, were analysed using hidden Markov behavioural state modelling alongside high-resolution environmental data. Variability in at-sea behavioural states was observed between colonies correlating with differences in fine-scale environmental parameters. There were significant differences in trip metrics and time spent in each of the identified behavioural states between each of the study colonies. Additionally, transitions between behavioural states were associated with different environmental parameters at each site. This variability in foraging behaviour for conspecifics at similar temporal scales illustrates the significance of fine-scale environmental variability in determining at-sea predator behaviour and highlights how even subtle differences in fine-scale environmental parameters can lead to alternative foraging strategies. This flexibility suggests a capacity to behaviourally adapt to variable and changing environmental conditions, a necessary condition for persistence in a changing world.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Phillips, LR and Hindell, M and Hobday, AJ and Lea, M-A
Keywords: ecology, behavioural plasticity, environmental variability, ecological patterns, ecological processes
Journal or Publication Title: Marine Ecology - Progress Series
Publisher: Inter-Research
ISSN: 0171-8630
DOI / ID Number: 10.3354/meps13095
Copyright Information:

© The authors 2019. Open Access under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence. ( Use, distribution and reproduction are un - restricted. Authors and original publication must be credited.

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