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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Sea-ice edge is more important than closer open water access for foraging Adélie penguins: evidence from two colonies

C. Michelot*, A. Kato, T. Raclot, K. Shiomi, P. Goulet, P. Bustamante, Y. Ropert-Coudert

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Sentinel species, like Adélie penguins, have been used to assess the impact of environmental changes and their link with sea ice has received considerable attention. Here, we test if Adélie penguins from two colonies in East Antarctica target the distant sea-ice edge or if they would take advantage of closer open waters that are readily available near their colony. We examined the foraging behaviour of penguins during the incubation trips of females in 2016 and males in 2017, using GPS tracking and diet data in view of daily sea-ice data and bathymetry. In 2016-17, sea-ice cover was extensive during females’ trips but flaw leads and polynyas were close to both study sites. Sea ice receded rapidly during males’ trips in 2017-18. Despite close open water near both colonies in both years, females and males preferentially targeted the continental slope and the sea-ice edge to forage. In addition, there was no difference in diet of penguins from both colonies: all penguins fed mostly on Antarctic krill and males also foraged on Antarctic silverfish. Our results highlight the importance of the sea-ice edge for penguins, an area where food abundance is predictable. It is likely that resource availability was not sufficient in closer open water areas at such an early stage in the breeding season. The behaviour displayed by the penguins from both colonies were similar, suggesting a common behaviour across colonies in Terre Adélie, although additional sites would be necessary to ascertain this.