Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 8, pp 1805–1813 | Cite as

Fatty acid signatures of stomach contents reflect inter- and intra-annual changes in diet of a small pelagic seabird, the Thin-billed prion Pachyptila belcheri

  • Petra QuillfeldtEmail author
  • Juan F. Masello
  • Paul Brickle
  • Dominik Martin-Creuzburg
Original Paper


In diet analyses of seabirds, fatty acid signatures (FAS) can be used to overcome biases due to differential digestion of prey and enable the analysis of very digested diet samples. We applied FAS analysis to stomach contents of a small sub-Antarctic seabird, the Thin-billed Prion Pachyptila belcheri, which feeds mainly on squid during incubation and on crustacea during chick rearing. This seasonal dietary switch of Thin-billed prions was reflected in differences in FAS in regurgitates, as were inter-annual differences in diet composition. A discriminant function analysis correctly classified 93.4% of cases with respect to year (2006–2008) and stage of the breeding cycle (incubation versus chick rearing). The dominant types of crustacea in the diet of Thin-billed prions (amphipods Themisto gaudichaudii, euphausiids, decapods Munida gregaria, and calanoid copepods) were distinguished well by characteristic FAS patterns. However, the FAS of the two main types of prey by volume, amphipods T. gaudichaudii and squid Gonatus antarcticus, were similar to each other. Although FAS were successfully applied in the analysis of prey in stomach contents of prions, FAS of some prey species were similar and may not be distinguishable from each other if used in quantitative diet analyses.


Stomach Content Calanoid Copepod Discriminant Function Analysis Falkland Island Fatty Acid Signature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The New Island Conservation Trust, Ian, Maria and Georgina Strange and Dan Birch facilitated fieldwork at New Island, which was approved and co-funded by the Falkland Islands Government (Environmental Planning Office). This study was funded by grants provided by the German Science Foundation DFG (Qu 148/1ff and SFB 454). We thank P. Merkel and C. Gielisch for technical assistance with fatty acid analyses and Karl-Otto Rothhaupt for organizing SFB 454. Finally, we wish to thank the Master and crew of RV Dorada for their assistance in sample collections and the FIFD for supporting this work.

Supplementary material

227_2011_1693_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (73 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 72.5 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petra Quillfeldt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Juan F. Masello
    • 1
  • Paul Brickle
    • 2
  • Dominik Martin-Creuzburg
    • 3
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für OrnithologieVogelwarte RadolfzellRadolfzellGermany
  2. 2.Fisheries DepartmentFalkland Islands Government, Directorate of Natural ResourcesStanleyFalkland Islands
  3. 3.Limnologisches InstitutUniversität KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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