Post-fledging dispersal of King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) from two breeding sites in the South Atlantic
Most studies concerning the foraging ecology of marine vertebrates are limited to breeding adults, although other life history stages might comprise half the total population. For penguins, little is known about juvenile dispersal, a period when individuals may be susceptible to increased mortality given their naïve foraging behaviour. Therefore, we used satellite telemetry to study king penguin fledglings (n = 18) from two sites in the Southwest Atlantic in December 2007. The two sites differed with respect to climate and proximity to the Antarctic Polar Front (APF), a key oceanographic feature generally thought to be important for king penguin foraging success. Accordingly, birds from both sites foraged predominantly in the vicinity of the APF. Eight king penguins were tracked for periods greater than 120 days; seven of these (three from the Falkland Islands and four from South Georgia) migrated into the Pacific. Only one bird from the Falkland Islands moved into the Indian Ocean, visiting the northern limit of the winter pack-ice. Three others from the Falkland Islands migrated to the eastern coast of Tierra del Fuego before travelling south. Derived tracking parameters describing their migratory behaviour showed no significant differences between sites. Nevertheless, generalized linear habitat modelling revealed that juveniles from the Falkland Islands spent more time in comparatively shallow waters with low sea surface temperature, sea surface height and chlorophyll variability. Birds from South Georgia spent more time in deeper waters with low sea surface temperature and sea surface height, but high concentrations of chlorophyll. Our results indicate that inexperienced king penguins, irrespective of the location of their natal site in relation to the position of the APF, develop their foraging skills progressively over time, including specific adaptations to the environment around their prospective breeding site.
Authors: Pütz, Klemens, Trathan, Phil N., Pedrana, Julieta, Collins, Martin A., Poncet, Sally, Lüthi, Benno