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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 523:199-213 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11130

Factors driving Adélie penguin chick size, mass and condition at colonies of different sizes in the Southern Ross Sea

Amy L. Whitehead1,8, Phil O’B. Lyver1, Grant Ballard2, Kerry Barton3, Brian J. Karl1, Katie M. Dugger4,9, Scott Jennings4, Amelie Lescroël5, Peter R. Wilson6, David G. Ainley7,*

1Landcare Research, PO Box 69040, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand
2Point Blue Conservation Science, 3820 Cypress Drive, Petaluma, California 94954, USA
3BartonK Solutions, 11 Thompson Terrace, Nelson 7010, New Zealand
4Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331-3803, USA
5CEFE UMR 5175, CNRS - Université de Montpellier - Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier - EPHE, 1919 route de Mende,
34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France
6St Heliers, Auckland, New Zealand
7H. T. Harvey and Associates, 983 University Avenue, Los Gatos, California 95032, USA
8Present address: Quantitative and Applied Ecology Group, School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia
9Present address: US Geological Survey, Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331-3803, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Body size, mass and condition can affect an organism’s ability to cope with variation in resource availability or metabolic demand, particularly as juveniles reach independence. It follows that changes to parental provisioning efficiency (size and frequency of meals) through intraspecific competition or environmental conditions that affect prey availability may affect chick size, mass and condition and ultimately post-fledging survival. We examined how Adélie penguin chick size, mass and condition varied among colonies of different sizes on Ross Island during a 15 yr period of high environmental variability and varying intraspecific competition. Aiding the study was a natural experiment in which the presence of 2 giant icebergs midway through the study abnormally increased sea ice concentration (SIC), altering adults’ access to food. Concurrently, the colonies were rapidly increasing in size; based on previous work, this indicated increased trophic competition near colonies, a trend likely indicating a changing food web in the greater region. Results showed that increased amounts of sea ice, which reduced the ability of adults to access food, had a negative effect on the size and mass of chicks. However, a greater proportion of fish (vs. krill) in the diet had a positive effect on chick size. Moreover, in some cases, increased intraspecific competition may be a more important driver of provisioning rate and chick size than abiotic factors, with chicks showing the effects of reduced food delivery at larger colonies. Understanding these patterns will allow better understanding of how factors such as climate change and altered food webs may affect Adélie penguin populations.


KEY WORDS: Adélie penguin · Chick growth · Diet variability · Provisioning efficiency · Intraspecific competition


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Cite this article as: Whitehead AL, Lyver PO’B, Ballard G, Barton K and others (2015) Factors driving Adélie penguin chick size, mass and condition at colonies of different sizes in the Southern Ross Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 523:199-213. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11130

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