Linking predator and prey behaviour: contrasts between Antarctic fur seals and macaroni penguins at South Georgia
Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella and macaroni penguins Eudyptes chrysolophus are the two main land-based krill Euphausia superba consumers in the northern Scotia Sea. Using a combination of concurrent at-sea (predator observations, net hauls and multi-frequency acoustics), and land-based (animal tracking and diet analysis) techniques, we examined variability in the foraging ecology of these sympatric top predators during the austral summer and autumn of 2004. Krill availability derived from acoustic surveys was low during summer, increasing in autumn. During the breeding season, krill occurred in 80% of fur seal diet samples, with fish remains in 37% of samples. Penguin diets contained the highest proportion of fish in over 20 years of routine monitoring (46% by mass; particularly the myctophid Electrona antarctica), with krill (33%) and amphipods (Themisto gaudichaudii; 21%) also occurring. When constrained by the need to return and feed their offspring both predator species foraged to the northwest of South Georgia, consistent with an area of high macrozooplankton biomass, but fur seals were apparently more successful at exploiting krill. When unconstrained by chick-rearing (during March) penguins foraged close to the Shag Rocks shelf-break, probably exploiting the high daytime biomass of fish in this area. Penguins and seals are able to respond differently to periods of reduced krill abundance (in terms of variability in diet and foraging behaviour), without detriment to the breeding success of either species. This highlights the importance of myctophid fish as an alternative trophic pathway for land-based predators in the Scotia Sea ecosystem.
Authors: Waluda, Claire M., Collins, Martin A., Black, Andrew D., Staniland, Iain J., Trathan, Philip N.