How age and sex drive the foraging behaviour in the king penguin
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- Le Vaillant, M., Le Bohec, C., Prud’Homme, O. et al. Mar Biol (2013) 160: 1147. doi:10.1007/s00227-013-2167-y
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As predicted by life history theory, once recruited into the breeding population and with increasing age, long-lived animals should be able to manage more efficiently the conflict between self-maintenance and reproduction. Consequently, breeding performances should improve with age before stabilizing at a certain level. Using temperature–depth recorders and isotopic analysis, we tested how age affects the foraging behaviour of king penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus during one trip in the chick-rearing phase. Depending on sex and age, king penguins expressed two different foraging strategies. Older birds gained more daily mass per unit body mass than younger ones. Older females conducted shorter trips, dived deeper and performed more prey pursuits. They also had higher blood levels of δ15N than younger individuals and males indicating sex- and age-specific dietary regimes. However, we found no differences in carbon isotopic signature, suggesting that individuals exploited the same foraging areas independently of sex and age. Our results suggest that king penguins are able to increase the quantity of energy extracted with increasing age and that such a strategy is sex-related. Our study is the first to reveal of an interaction between age and sex in determining foraging efficiency in king penguins.