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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 665:201-216 (2021)  -  DOI:

Diet, antioxidants and oxidative status in pygoscelid penguins

Roger Colominas-Ciuró1,*, Marcelo Bertellotti2,3, Verónica L. D’Amico2, Eliana Carabajal4, Jesús Benzal5, Virginia Vidal1, Miguel Motas6, Mercedes Santos7, Néstor Coria7, Andrés Barbosa1

1Dpto. Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN-CSIC), 28006 Madrid, Spain
2Centro para el Estudio de Sistemas Marinos (CESIMAR-CONICET), U9120ACD Puerto Madryn, Argentina
3Cát. Biología de la Conservación, Universidad del Chubut, U9120OOW Puerto Madryn, Argentina
4Instituto de Biología de Organismos Marinos (IBIOMAR-CONICET), U9120ACD Puerto Madryn, Argentina
5Dpto. Ecología Funcional y Evolutiva, Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas (EEZA-CSIC), 04120 Almería, Spain
6Área de Toxicología, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de Murcia, 30100 Murcia, Spain
7Dpto. Biología Predadores Tope, Instituto Antártico Argentino, B1650CSP San Martín, Argentina
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Ecologically similar marine species inhabiting the same areas compete for food resources. Such competition is reduced by resource-partitioning strategies that may affect physiology. For instance, diet and feeding strategies may affect the antioxidant defences or the production of reactive oxygen species. Oxidative stress is defined as the imbalance between pro-oxidants and antioxidant defences. If such an imbalance favours the former, this can lead to oxidative damage, and oxidative stress increases. However, to our knowledge, how free-ranging animals adjust their oxidative status in relation to their foraging habitats, diet and dietary antioxidants has not yet been studied. Penguins are an interesting biological model for such a comparison because their diet, based on krill, fish and/or cephalopods, presents strong variation in dietary antioxidant content. We therefore examined trophic level (δ15N), foraging habitat (δ13C), dietary antioxidants (retinol, α-tocopherol and astaxanthin) and oxidative status (plasma non-enzymatic antioxidant capacity and oxidative damage) in pygoscelid penguins (chinstrap Pygoscelis antarcticus, gentoo P. papua and Adélie P. adeliae) breeding in Antarctica. We found interspecific differences in all variables analysed except α-tocopherol. Gentoo penguins exploited more cephalopods and fish in coastal and benthic habitats, Adélies showed an intermediate position, whereas chinstraps foraged more on krill and fish in pelagic waters. Dietary antioxidant levels showed specific patterns resulting in relationships with prey items. However, we did not find any clear relationships between dietary antioxidants and species-specific antioxidant capacity, suggesting the importance of endogenously produced antioxidants. Oxidative status appeared to be differently related to foraging strategy and antioxidant capacity in each species.

KEY WORDS: Diet · Dietary antioxidants · Oxidative stress · Penguins · Stable Isotope Analyses in R · SIAR

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Cite this article as: Colominas-Ciuró R, Bertellotti M, D’Amico VL, Carabajal E and others (2021) Diet, antioxidants and oxidative status in pygoscelid penguins. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 665:201-216.

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