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Changes in diet and trophic position of a top predator 10 years after a mass mortality of a key prey

AuthorsChiaradia, L.D.; Forero, Manuela G. ; Hobson, Keith A.; Cullen, J.M.
Issue Date2010
PublisherOxford University Press
CitationICES Journal of Marine Science 67: 1710- 1720 (2010)
AbstractAfter the disappearance of primary prey, seabirds exhibit gradually decreased breeding performance, and eventually the population size drops. Results are presented of an investigation into the diet of little penguins (Eudyptula minor) at Phillip Island, Australia, during a period when their key prey, pilchard (Sardinops sagax), declined dramatically. Data from stomach flushing (1982-2006) were used, supported by stable isotope (δ 15N, δ13C) analyses of blood samples (2003, 2004, and 2006). The effect of the pilchard mortality on penguin diet was immediate, the birds shifting to a diet almost devoid of pilchard, and this was followed by 2 years of low breeding success, with considerably fewer penguins coming ashore. During periods when pilchard was not part of the diet, penguins consumed prey of a higher trophic level, e.g. higher values of δ15N. Variability in penguin blood δ15N coincided with years of low prey diversity. The disappearance of pilchard resulted in a decrease in prey diversity and led penguins to >fish up> the foodweb, possibly because of the simplified trophic structure. After 1998, however, breeding success re-attained average levels and the numbers of penguins coming ashore increased, probably because of increased abundance of prey other than pilchard after a 3-year period of food scarcity. Although little penguins apparently compensated over time, a less-flexible diet could make them ultimately vulnerable to further changes in their foodweb. © 2010 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsq067
issn: 1054-3139
Appears in Collections:(EBD) Artículos
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