Diving characteristics of southern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes c. chrysocome) in the southwest Atlantic
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- Pütz, K., Rey, A.R., Huin, N. et al. Marine Biology (2006) 149: 125. doi:10.1007/s00227-005-0179-y
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The diving behaviour of southern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes c. chrysocome) was studied at two breeding sites in the Southwest Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and Staten Island, Argentina. Incubating and brooding birds were equipped with time-depth recorders to monitor their foraging activities. Rockhopper penguins from Staten Island started their breeding season about 3 weeks earlier than their conspecifics from the Falkland Islands. The foraging area used by incubating males from the Falkland Islands comprised about 150,000 km² to the northeast of the breeding site and was characterised by shelf and slope waters, whereas the foraging area of incubating males from Staten Island comprised 350,000 km² of oceanic waters to the southeast of the breeding site. A number of dive parameters were measured and compared between the four study groups: Incubating males and brooding females from the Falkland Islands, and incubating males and females from Staten Island. In all study groups, dive depth correlated positively to light intensity, dive duration and vertical velocity. However, significant differences between various diving parameters of the study groups were noted, not only in terms of diving performance, but also as regards diving efficiency (DE). A principal component analysis (PCA) on 16 variables revealed that 75% of the variance could be explained by only two principal components: diving pattern (PC1) and diving effort (PC2). PC1 indicated that the birds from Staten Island, both males and females, dived deeper, covered a greater vertical distance per hour and had higher ascent rates, but spent less time underwater and at the bottom of a dive, and had a lower DE than conspecifics from the Falkland Islands. PC2, which included the percentage of foraging dives, the number of dives per hour, dive duration, bottom time and descent rate, differed significantly between incubating males from the Falkland Islands and the other three groups, which were all very similar. Overall, the diving behaviour was notably similar to that of conspecifics from the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The implications of the results in terms of intra-specific adaptations as well as potential threats from human activities are discussed.