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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 377:299-307 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07863

Spatial and temporal diet segregation in northern fulmars Fulmarus glacialis breeding in Alaska: insights from fatty acid signatures

Shiway W. Wang1,4,5,*, Sara J. Iverson2, Alan M. Springer3, Scott A. Hatch4

1School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, 245 O’Neill Building, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7220, USA
2Department of Biology, 1355 Oxford Street, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1, Canada
3Institute of Marine Science, 262 Arctic Health Building, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-1080, USA
4U. S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, 4210 University Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, USA
5Present address: Alaska SeaLife Center, 301 Railway Avenue, PO Box 1329, Seward, Alaska 99664, USA

ABSTRACT: Northern fulmars Fulmarus glacialis in the North Pacific Ocean are opportunistic, generalist predators, yet their diets are poorly described; thus, relationships of fulmars to supporting food webs, their utility as indicators of variability in forage fish abundances, and their sensitivity to ecosystem change are not known. We employed fatty acid (FA) signature analysis of adipose tissue from adults (n = 235) and chicks (n = 33) to compare spatial, temporal, and age-related variation in diets of fulmars breeding at 3 colonies in Alaska. FA signatures of adult fulmars differed between colonies within years, and between seasons at individual colonies. Seasonal and spatial differences in signatures were greater than interannual differences at all colonies. Differences in FA signatures reflect differences in diets, probably because the breeding colonies are located in distinct ecoregions which create unique habitats for prey assemblages, and because interannual variation in the physical environment affects the availability of forage species. Differences between FA signatures of adults and chicks in 2003 and 2004 suggest that adults fed chicks different prey than they consumed themselves. Alternatively, if adults relied on the same prey as those fed to chicks, the differences in signatures could have resulted from partial digestion of prey items by adults before chicks were fed, or direct metabolism of FAs by chicks for tissue synthesis before FAs could be deposited into adipose tissue.


KEY WORDS: Fatty acids · Northern fulmar · Fulmarus glacialis · Alaska · Diet analysis


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Cite this article as: Wang SW, Iverson SJ, Springer AM, Hatch SA (2009) Spatial and temporal diet segregation in northern fulmars Fulmarus glacialis breeding in Alaska: insights from fatty acid signatures. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 377:299-307. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07863

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