, Volume 153, Issue 4, pp 845-855
Date: 14 Jun 2007

Divergent responses of Pygoscelis penguins reveal a common environmental driver

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The responses of predators to environmental variability in the Antarctic Peninsula region have exhibited divergent patterns owing to variation in the geographic settings of colonies and predator life-history strategies. Five breeding colonies of Pygoscelis penguins from King George Island and Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica, were examined to (1) compare the responses of sympatric congeners to recent changes in their Antarctic ecosystem and (2) assess underlying causes for such responses. We used linear regression and correlation analyses to compare indices of abundance, recruitment, and summer breeding performance of the Adélie (P. adeliae), gentoo (P. papua), and chinstrap penguins (P. antarctica). Breeding colonies of Adélie and chinstrap penguins have declined by roughly 50% since the mid-1970s, and recruitment indices of Adélie penguins have declined by roughly 80%, but no such patterns are evident for gentoo penguins. Fledging success, however, has remained stable at all breeding colonies. The different trends in abundance and recruitment indices for each species, despite generally similar indices of summer performance, suggest that winter conditions contribute to the divergent responses among the penguins. In particular, strong correlations between indices of penguin and krill recruitment suggest that penguins in the South Shetland Islands may live under an increasingly krill-limited system that has disproportionate effects on the survival of juvenile birds.

Communicated by Carol Vleck.