MEPS 440:229-240 (2011)  -  doi:10.3354/meps09351

Inter-colony comparison of diving behavior of an Arctic top predator: implications for warming in the Greenland Sea

Nina J. Karnovsky1,*, Zachary W. Brown1,2, Jorg Welcker3, Ann M. A. Harding4, Wojciech Walkusz5,6, Andre Cavalcanti1, Johanna Hardin7, Alexander Kitaysky8, Geir Gabrielsen3, David Grémillet9,10

1Pomona College, Department of Biology, Claremont, California 91711, USA
2Stanford University, Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford, California 94305, USA
3Norwegian Polar Institute, Polarmiljøsenteret, Tromsø, Norway
4Alaska Pacific University, Environmental Science Department, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, USA
5Institute of Oceanology PAS, Marine Ecology Department, 81-712 Sopot, Poland
6Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N6, Canada
7Pomona College, Department of Mathematics, Claremont, California 91711, USA
8Institute of Arctic Biology, Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, USA
9Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, CEFE, F-34293 Montpellier, Cedex 5, France
10Percy FitzPatrick Insitute, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa

ABSTRACT: The goal of this study was to assess how diverse oceanographic conditions and prey communities affect the foraging behavior of little auks Alle alle. The Greenland Sea is characterized by 3 distinct water masses: (1) the East Greenland Current (EGC), which carries Arctic waters southward; (2) the Sørkapp Current (SC), which originates in the Arctic Ocean but flows north along the west coast of Spitsbergen; and (3) the West Spitsbergen Current (WSC), which carries warm Atlantic-derived water north. Each of these 3 water masses is characterized by a distinct mesozooplankton community. Little auks breeding adjacent to the EGC have access to large, lipid-rich Calanus copepods, whereas those adjacent to the SC have medium sized prey, while those near the WSC are limited to even smaller, less profitable prey. We used time−depth recorders to compare the time allocation and diving behavior of little auks adjacent to each of these 3 water masses. We predicted that birds in the EGC would not have to forage as intensively as those in the SC or WSC. We found that little auks foraging in the EGC spent less time at sea, spent less time flying, dived less often, made fewer long, deep dives, and made fewer V-shaped searching dives. This indicates that the EGC provides a more favorable foraging environment than do the warmer water masses to the east. Comparing the foraging behavior of little auk populations confined to Arctic versus Atlantic-influenced waters can provide insight into the potential impacts of future warming in the Greenland Sea.

KEY WORDS:  Little auk · Alle alle · Calanus · Climate change · East Greenland Current · Sørkapp Current · West Spitsbergen Current · Time−depth recorder · Dovekie

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Cite this article as: Karnovsky NJ, Brown ZW, Welcker J, Harding AMA and others (2011) Inter-colony comparison of diving behavior of an Arctic top predator: implications for warming in the Greenland Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 440:229-240

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