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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 568:203-215 (2017)  -  DOI:

Spring phenology shapes the spatial foraging behavior of Antarctic petrels

Per Fauchald1,*, Arnaud Tarroux2, Torkild Tveraa1, Yves Cherel3, Yan Ropert-Coudert3, Akiko Kato3,4, Oliver P. Love5, Øystein Varpe6,7, Sébastien Descamps2

1Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
2Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
3Centres d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, UMR7372 du CNRS-Université de La Rochelle, 79360 Villiers-en-Bois, France
4Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, CNRS UMR7178, 67037 Strasbourg, France
5Department of Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON N9B 3P4, Canada
6The University Centre in Svalbard, 9171 Longyearbyen, Norway
7Akvaplan-niva, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In polar seas, the seasonal melting of ice triggers the development of an open-water ecosystem characterized by short-lived algal blooms, the grazing and development of zooplankton, and the influx of avian and mammalian predators. Spatial heterogeneity in the timing of ice melt generates temporal variability in the development of these events across the habitat, offering a natural framework to assess how foraging marine predators respond to the spring phenology. We combined 4 yr of tracking data of Antarctic petrels Thalassoica antarctica with synoptic remote-sensing data on sea ice and chlorophyll a to test how the development of melting ice and primary production drive Antarctic petrel foraging. Cross-correlation analyses of first-passage time revealed that Antarctic petrels utilized foraging areas with a spatial scale of 300 km. These areas changed position or disappeared within 10 to 30 d and showed no spatial consistency among years. Generalized additive model (GAM) analyses suggested that the presence of foraging areas was related to the time since ice melt. Antarctic petrels concentrated their search effort in melting areas and in areas that had reached an age of 50 to 60 d from the date of ice melt. We found no significant relationship between search effort and chlorophyll a concentration. We suggest that these foraging patterns were related to the vertical distribution and profitability of the main prey, the Antarctic krill Euphausia superba. Our study demonstrates that the annual ice melt in the Southern Ocean shapes the development of a highly patchy and elusive food web, underscoring the importance of flexible foraging strategies among top predators.

KEY WORDS: Area-restricted search · Euphausia superba · Marginal ice zone · Phytoplankton biomass · Procellariiformes · Sea ice dynamics · Southern Ocean · Thalassoica antarctica

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Cite this article as: Fauchald P, Tarroux A, Tveraa T, Cherel Y and others (2017) Spring phenology shapes the spatial foraging behavior of Antarctic petrels. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 568:203-215.

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