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The longest and most comprehensive study to date of what penguins eat is published this month. The study, published in the journal Marine Biology, examines the diets of gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) at Bird Island, South Georgia over a 22 year period and is part of a project investigating the Southern Ocean ecosystem and its response to change.
Penguin parents forage at sea returning to feed their chicks every day. The team, based at British Antarctic Survey (BAS), found that between 1989 and 2010 gentoo penguins ate approximately equal amounts of crustaceans, (mainly Antarctic krill, a small shrimp-like creature) and fish.
Prey - Species - Diet - Squid - Octopus
Twenty-six different prey species were found in the diet, including squid, octopus and 17 species of fish. The composition of gentoo penguin diets was variable from year to year, with krill the dominant food in 10 years of the study and fish in 12 years. Successful breeding (the number of chicks fledged per nest per year) was strongly related to the amount of krill in the diet, with few chicks fledging in years where krill was particularly scarce.
The team then compared the diets of gentoo penguins with those of macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolphus) also resident at Bird Island. Both species are able to switch to other prey when krill...
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