DAO 45:159-169 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/dao045159

Health evaluation of penguins (Sphenisciformes) following mortality in the Falklands (South Atlantic)

I. F. Keymer1,*, H. M. Malcolm2, A. Hunt3, D. T. Horsley4

1The Old Smithy, The Green, Edgefield, Melton Constable, Norfolk NR24 2AL, United Kingdom
2Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, CEH Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire E28 2LS, United Kingdom
3Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, Veterinary Laboratories Agency, The Elms, College Road, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE12 5RB, United Kingdom
4The Department of Biology, Gresham¹s School, Holt, Norfolk NR25 6EA, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT: In the Falklands, heavy mortality of rock-hopper penguins Eudyptes chrysocome occurred during the 1985-86 breeding season. Starvation was diagnosed as the primary cause of death, possibly caused by a shortage of euphausiid crustaceans (krill) due to unusual meterological conditions. 'Puffinosis' may possibly have been a contributory factor; otherwise no conclusive evidence of infectious disease or toxicosis was found and also no evidence of radioactive contamination. In the 1986-87 breeding season no unusual mortality occurred, but 99 apparently healthy penguins were examined, i.e., rockhoppers Eudyptes chrysocome syn E. crestatus, gentoos Pygoscelis papua and Magellanics Spheniscus magellanicus. Full necropsies were carried out on 54. Tissue examinations were made for cadmium, copper, iron, manganese, mercury, lead and zinc. High tissue cadmium concentrations found in healthy birds in 1987 were similar to those in penguins which died in 1986, and therefore not considered to be of pathological significance. Although there has been no repetition of the unusually hot 1985-86 breeding season in the Falklands, penguins and other seabirds have had fluctuating breeding successes since then. The precise cause, including the roles of meteorological conditions and overexploitation of some forms of prey species, is unclear.

KEY WORDS: Penguins · Falklands · Puffinosis · Metals · Cadmium · Parasites · Euphausiids (Krill)

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