Diet of the King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus during three summers at South Georgia

King Penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus which were rearing chicks were studied during three summers from November 1991 to March 1994 at South Georgia. Stomach samples (n=115) collected by flushing had a mean mass of 1308 g. Fish mass was allocated to each species based on the relationship between fish mass and otolith length. Three mesopelagic lanternfishes (Myctophidae), Krefftichthys anderssoni, Electrona carlsbergi and Protomyctophum choriodon, dominated the diet both by numbers and mass. They were small fish with mean mass of 3–7 g. Overall, K. anderssoni dominated the diet in terms of numbers and mass. Although Barracudina Notolepis coatsi occurred in <3% of the diet by numbers, it was large (106 g) and was second most important in terms of mass. Squid represented <3% of the diet by mass. Although the chick-rearing success was poor in the 1993–1994 summer, meal size was not reduced but foraging trips were longer. In the 1993–1994 summer, a larger proportion of the otoliths were not identifiable because they were more completely digested. Fewer otoliths were identified as being those of K. anderssoni, but we argue that about 90% of the unidentified otoliths were K. anderssoni. There was also more squid and N. coatsi in the diet during the poor summer. A consistent trend was that P. choriodon was rare or absent in early summer but more important later in the year, and at the end of 1992–1993, it was the dominant prey. We conclude that myctophid fish, especially K. anderssoni, are the main summer prey of King Penguins rearing chicks at South Georgia, as found in other recent studies in the Southern Ocean.


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Authors: Olsson, Olof, North, A.W.

1 July, 1997
Ibis / 139
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