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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 366:293-303 (2008)  -  DOI:

Foraging behaviour and habitat selection of the little penguin Eudyptula minor during early chick rearing in Bass Strait, Australia

Andrew J. Hoskins1,*, Peter Dann2, Yan Ropert-Coudert3, Akiko Kato4, André Chiaradia2, Daniel P. Costa5, John P. Y. Arnould1

1School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia
2Research Department, Phillip Island Nature Park, PO Box 97, Cowes, Victoria 3922, Australia
3Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, Département Ecologie, Physiologie et Ethologie, UMR 7178 CNRS-ULP, 23, rue Becquerel, 67087 Strasbourg Cedex 02, France
4National Institute of Polar Research, 1-9-10 Kaga, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-8515, Japan
5Center for Ocean Health, University of California, 100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, California 95060, USA

ABSTRACT: Knowledge of the foraging areas of top marine predators and the factors influencing them is central to understanding how their populations respond to environmental variability. While there is a large body of literature documenting the association of air-breathing marine vertebrates with areas of high marine productivity, there is relatively little information for species restricted to near-shore or continental-shelf areas. Differences in foraging range and diving behaviour of the little penguin Eudyptula minor were examined from 3 breeding colonies (Rabbit Island, Kanowna Island and Phillip Island) in central northern Bass Strait, southeast Australia, during the chick-guard stage using electronic tags (platform terminal transmitters, PTTs, and time-depth recorders, TDRs). Although there were large overall differences between individuals, the mean maximum foraging range (16.9 to 19.8 km) and mean total distance travelled (41.8 to 48.0 km) were similar between the 3 colonies, despite different bathymetric environments. Individuals from all 3 colonies selected foraging habitats within a narrow sea surface temperature (SST) range (16.0 to 16.4°C). While there were significant differences in mean dive depths (5.4 to 10.9 m) and mean durations (13.2 to 28.6 s) between the different colonies, the mean diving effort (vertical distance travelled: 936.3 to 964.3 m h–1) was similar. These findings suggest little penguins from the 3 colonies employ relatively similar foraging efforts yet are plastic in their foraging behaviours.

KEY WORDS: Compositional analysis · Diving · Coastal ecosystem · Nearshore habitats · Sea surface temperature · Seabird

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Cite this article as: Hoskins AJ, Dann P, Ropert-Coudert Y, Kato A, Chiaradia A, Costa DP, Arnould JPY (2008) Foraging behaviour and habitat selection of the little penguin Eudyptula minor during early chick rearing in Bass Strait, Australia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 366:293-303.

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