Fish and squid in the diet of king penguin chicks, Aptenodytes patagonicus, during winter at sub-antarctic Crozet Islands
The diet of king penguins, Aptenodytes patagonicus, rearing chicks was studied during three consecutive austral winters (1990, 1991 and 1992) at Crozet Islands. The mean stomach content mass of the 47 samples was 503 g. Percentages of wet and reconstituted masses showed that both fishes (66 and 36%, respectively) and squid (34 and 64%) are important components of the winter diet. Juveniles of the demersal onychoteuthid squid Moroteuthis ingens form the bulk of the cephalopod diet, and this was the main prey by reconstituted mass (57%). Myctophid fish (lantern-fishes) accounted for most of the fish diet, constituting together 32% by mass. The three main species of myctophids eaten in summer by king penguins were either very rare in winter (Electrona carlsbergi) or accounted for a smaller proportion of the diet (Krefftichthys anderssoni = 1.5% by mass and Protomyctophum tenisoni = 4.6%). Five other myctophids, which are rarely consumed in summer, contributed 24% of the diet by mass in winter (Gymnoscopelus piabilis = 18.1%, Lampichthys procerus = 2.4%, G. nicholsi = 1.3%, and Metelectrona ventralis and Electrona subaspera = 1.0%). The greater diversity of prey in winter suggests a more opportunistic feeding behaviour at a time probably marked by a change in prey availability. Both the known ecology of the fish and squid prey and the barely digested state of some items suggest that in winter breeding adults forage in the outer shelf, upper slope and oceanic areas in the close vicinity of the Crozet Islands to feed their chicks. Finally, using king penguins as biological samplers, the present work provides novel data on the previously unstudied mesopelagic/epibenthic marine community in waters surrounding the Crozet Islands. Seventeen myctophid fish have been identified to species level. These include several poorly known species in the southern Indian Ocean. The occurrence of small, nearly intact, cephalopods in the diet of king penguins suggests that spawning grounds of four squid species may be located near the Crozet Archipelago.