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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 374:259-272 (2009)  -  DOI:

Comparative foraging ecology of a tropical seabird community of the Seychelles, western Indian Ocean

Teresa Catry1,*, Jaime A. Ramos1, Sébastien Jaquemet2, Lucie Faulquier2, Maud Berlincourt2, Antoine Hauselmann2, Patrick Pinet2, Matthieu Le Corre2

1Institute of Marine Research (IMAR), Department of Zoology, University of Coimbra, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal
2Laboratoire ECOMAR, Université de la Réunion, 15 avenue René Cassin, BP 7151, 97715 Saint Denis, Réunion Island, France

ABSTRACT: We studied the foraging ecology of a tropical seabird community in 2 islands of the Seychelles from 2005 to 2007. Chick dietary samples were used to compare feeding habits among species and assess inter-annual and seasonal variations in diet. Fish prey dominated the diet of the community (68 to 100% of prey consumed), although cephalopods were present in 61.3, 40.0, 27.1 and 32.9% of the food samples from white-tailed tropicbirds, sooty terns, brown noddies and wedge-tailed shearwaters, respectively. We found high diet overlap between species (Mullidae fish being the first prey consumed [30 to 90%] for all species except for the white-tailed tropicbird [<2%]) but some segregation in prey length. Other important prey were Exocoetidae, Carangidae, Scombridae and Clupeidae mainly for white-tailed tropicbirds, sooty terns and brown noddies, Hemiramphidae and Coryphaenidae for white-tailed tropicbirds, and Engraulidae and fish larvae for lesser noddies and Audubon’s shearwaters. Despite some inter-annual and seasonal variations in diet, these were not consistent within the community. Responses of the seabird community to an environmental perturbation that negatively affected chick growth and breeding success of lesser noddies emphasised the higher vulnerability of species with smaller foraging ranges and/or with lower ability to switch diet (lesser noddy, roseate tern) compared to less range-restricted and/or more opportunistic ones (white-tailed tropicbird, brown noddy, sooty tern, white tern). Although situated in a tropical region, the food availability in the Seychelles seems to be predictable at a large (annual) temporal scale, but highly unpredictable at a small (intra-seasonal or daily) temporal scale.

KEY WORDS: Tropical seabirds · Foraging ecology · Diet · Temporal variations · Food shortage · Western Indian Ocean

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Cite this article as: Catry T, Ramos JA, Jaquemet S, Faulquier L and others (2009) Comparative foraging ecology of a tropical seabird community of the Seychelles, western Indian Ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 374:259-272.

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