Study sheds light on penguins first year far from home

May 14, 2014

In the first study of its kind, scientists tracked penguins first year away from home and found young king penguins explored new habitat, eventually learning to find food similarly to their parents, according to results published May 14, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Klemens Pütz from Antarctic Research Trust and colleagues.

Most foraging ecology studies of marine vertebrates are limited to breeding adults, although young penguins may be susceptible to increased mortality due to their inexperience. To better understand young penguin foraging behavior, scientists used satellite telemetry to track 18 in from two sites in the Southwest Atlantic for about 120 days in 2007. The two sites differed with respect to climate and proximity to the Antarctic Polar Front, a key oceanographic feature generally thought to be important for king penguin finding food.

Scientists found that young penguins undertake large-scale movements when at-sea for the first time - ranging from a maximum distance of about 600 km to 4,000 km and averaging about 45 km per day. They also moved similarly at both locations, but more detailed analyses revealed slight differences in habitat use between the two localities. For example, juveniles from the Falkland Islands spent more time in comparatively shallow waters with low sea surface temperature, , and chlorophyll variability. The authors suggest that in this species, juveniles eventually use similar habitat to find food as the adults, which may indicate that inexperienced king penguins develop their foraging skills progressively over time, irrespective of location.

Explore further: Want to monitor climate change? P-p-p-pick up a penguin!

More information: Putz K, Trathan PN, Pedrana J, Collins MA, Poncet S, et al. (2014) Post-Fledging Dispersal of King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) from Two Breeding Sites in the South Atlantic. PLoS ONE 9(5): e97164. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097164

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