MEPS 497:259-272 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10606

Combined stomach content, lipid and stable isotope analyses reveal spatial and trophic partitioning among three sympatric albatrosses from the Southern Ocean

Maëlle Connan1,2,7,*, Christopher D. McQuaid1, Bo T. Bonnevie3, Malcolm J. Smale4,5, Yves Cherel6

1Rhodes University, Department of Zoology and Entomology, PO Box 94, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
2Percy FitzPatrick Institute of Africa Ornithology, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
3Rhodes University, Information Technology Division, PO Box 94, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
4Port Elizabeth Museum at Bayworld, PO Box 13147, Humewood 6013, South Africa
5Zoology Department, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, PO Box 77000, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa
6Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Villiers-en-Bois,
79360 Beauvoir-sur-Niort, France
7Present address: Zoology Department, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, PO Box 77000, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: A combination of dietary techniques that integrate data on food and feeding habits over days, weeks and months was used to investigate resource partitioning among 3 sympatric albatrosses, namely the grey-headed Thalassarche chrysostoma (GHA), light-mantled sooty Phoebetria palpebrata (LMSA) and sooty Phoebetria fusca (SA) albatrosses. These medium-size albatrosses typically breed every 2 yr, and Marion Island (southern Indian Ocean) is the only breeding site where the 3 species are accessible. Stomach content analysis provided dietary information about the most recent meal, analysis of fatty acids in stomach oils about the last foraging trip, and carbon and nitrogen stable isotope values of blood and feathers about the chick-rearing (breeding) and moulting periods, respectively. The combination of techniques highlighted a complex pattern regarding the spatial and trophic segregation between the 3 species. During both seasons, SA were spatially segregated from LMSA and GHA, foraging farther north (in subantarctic and subtropical areas) than the 2 other species (subantarctic and Antarctic waters). When feeding for themselves during the breeding season (blood isotopic signatures), adults showed a clear spatial segregation. When bringing back food for their chicks (stomach contents), trophic segregation became obvious, with the 2 Phoebetria species specializing mostly on squids. The results illustrate how sympatrically breeding birds can show niche partitioning through both spatial segregation and prey specialization.


KEY WORDS: Phoebetria palpebrata · Phoebetria fusca · Thalassarche chrysostoma · Trophic segregation · Spatial segregation · Moulting period · Breeding season


Full text in pdf format 
Supplementary material 
Cite this article as: Connan M, McQuaid CD, Bonnevie BT, Smale MJ, Cherel Y (2014) Combined stomach content, lipid and stable isotope analyses reveal spatial and trophic partitioning among three sympatric albatrosses from the Southern Ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 497:259-272. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10606

Export citation
Mail this link - Contents Mailing Lists - RSS
- -