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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 709:125-139 (2023)  -  DOI:

Ecological niche partitioning in two Pacific puffins

Akiko Shoji1,*, Shannon Whelan2, Joshua T. Cunningham3, Scott A. Hatch4, Yasuaki Niizuma5, Chinatsu Nakajima1, Kyle H. Elliott2

1Department of Life and Environmental Science, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba 305-8572, Japan
2Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University, Montreal H9X 3V9, Canada
3Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph N1G 2W1, Canada
4Institute for Seabird Research and Conservation, Anchorage 99516, USA
5Department of Environmental Bioscience, Meijo University, Nagoya 468-8502, Japan
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Ecological theory predicts that closely related species can coexist if they segregate in space, time, or diet to reduce competitive overlap when resources are limited. These differences in ecological niche are presumably driven by concomitant differences in morphology. The link between form and functional segregation may only occur at 1 period of the year, and while examining behavioural differences among closely related species across the whole annual cycle can answer this question, it is rarely tested. Here, we investigated niche partitioning between sister species within the puffin clade: tufted puffins Fratercula cirrhata with high wing loading and rhinoceros auklets Cerorhinca monocerata with low wing loading, breeding in sympatry on Middleton Island, Alaska. We collected data for horizontal movement, dive depth, and trophic ecology. Tufted puffins dived deeper, foraged closer to the colony during breeding, and migrated shorter distances relative to rhinoceros auklets. Examination of allometric patterns further revealed that puffins exceeded the predicted dive duration limit with exceptionally long dives. However, isotopic niches of the 2 species were very similar. Rhinoceros auklet breeding phenology was about 3 wk earlier than tufted puffin phenology, and breeding success during the study period was always higher for auklets than puffins. We conclude that the 2 species of sympatric puffin partitioned both in space and time throughout the annual cycle, illustrating how such partitioning can facilitate the coexistence of seabirds sharing apparently similar space.

KEY WORDS: Annual cycle · Biologging · Stable isotope analysis · Diet · Competition · Seabirds

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Cite this article as: Shoji A, Whelan S, Cunningham JT, Hatch SA, Niizuma Y, Nakajima C, Elliott KH (2023) Ecological niche partitioning in two Pacific puffins. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 709:125-139.

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