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, 5 (4), 473-6

Where Do Penguins Go During the Inter-Breeding Period? Using Geolocation to Track the Winter Dispersion of the Macaroni Penguin


Where Do Penguins Go During the Inter-Breeding Period? Using Geolocation to Track the Winter Dispersion of the Macaroni Penguin

C A Bost et al. Biol Lett.


Although penguins are key marine predators from the Southern Ocean, their migratory behaviour during the inter-nesting period remains widely unknown. Here, we report for the first time, to our knowledge, the winter foraging movements and feeding habits of a penguin species by using geolocation sensors fitted on penguins with a new attachment method. We focused on the macaroni penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus at Kerguelen, the single largest consumer of marine prey among all seabirds. Overall, macaroni penguins performed very long winter trips, remaining at sea during approximately six months within the limits of the Southern Ocean. They departed from Kerguelen in an eastward direction and distributed widely, over more than 3.10(6) km(2). The penguins spent most of their time in a previously unrecognized foraging area, i.e. a narrow latitudinal band (47-49 degrees S) within the central Indian Ocean (70-110 degrees E), corresponding oceanographically to the Polar Frontal Zone. There, their blood isotopic niche indicated that macaroni penguins preyed mainly upon crustaceans, but not on Antarctic krill Euphausia superba, which does not occur at these northern latitudes. Such winter information is a crucial step for a better integrative approach for the conservation of this species whose world population is known to be declining.


Figure 1.
Figure 1.
(a) Winter-at-sea movements of 12 macaroni penguins from Kerguelen tracked by GLS from April to October 2006. Bathymetric range is indicated in the right upper corner. SSTF, Subtropical Front; SAF, Sub-Antarctic Front; PF, Polar Front; SIE, maximal sea ice extent. (b) Kernel density distribution of penguins. The density contours encompass 50 (red) to 95 per cent (yellow) of the total distribution.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
(a) Two distinctive at-sea distributions of macaroni penguins during winter (July to August 2006): direct paths towards Antarctic waters (n = 2, green and yellow circles) and long distance path in the Polar Frontal Zone (PFZ) (n = 2, white and red circles). The lines correspond to the routes taken by the same birds from their departure until their return. (b) (right corner) Distribution of speed anomalies of at-sea penguins (April to November 2006).

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