Dietary segregation of krill-eating South Georgia seabirds

The diets of six of the main seabird species (two petrels, two albatrosses, two penguins) breeding at Bird Island, South Georgia were studied simultaneously during the chick-rearing period in 1986. For five species, Antarctic krill Euphausia superba was the main food (39–98% by mass); grey-headed albatrosses took mainly the ommastrephid squid Martialia hyadesi (71%) and only 16% krill. The size of the krill taken was similar between seabird species, although there were small but significant differences between penguins and the other species. Sex and reproductive status of krill, however, was different between all seabird species, reflecting some combination of differences in foraging ranges, selectivity by predators, or differences in escape responses of krill. For the krill-eating species, the rest of the diet varied substantially between species, comprising Martialia and nototheniid fish (blackbrowed albatross and, along with lanternfish, white-chinned petrel), lanternfish and amphipods (Antarctic prion and macaroni penguin), and icefish (gentoo penguin). Long-term data on breeding success and information on diet in 5–10 other years suggest that in 1986 seabird diet and reproductive performance was indicative of a year of good availability of krill around South Georgia. In such circumstances, ecological segregation between krill-eating species appears to be maintained chiefly by differences in foraging range and feeding methods, which are reviewed. This situation is rather different from the few studies of seabird communities elsewhere, where prey type and size are believed to be the main mechanisms of dietary segregation


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Authors: Croxall, J. P., Prince, P. A., Reid, K.

1 July, 1997
Journal of Zoology / 242
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