Polar Biology

, 32:645 | Cite as

Tracking macaroni penguins during long foraging trips using ‘behavioural geolocation’

  • Jonathan A. GreenEmail author
  • Rory P. Wilson
  • Ian L. Boyd
  • Anthony J. Woakes
  • Chris J. Green
  • Patrick J. Butler
Original Paper


The movement of marine vertebrates has been tracked using a variety of techniques, all of which depend on the external attachment of a transmitting or recording device. However, these devices can have negative effects on the subject animals, limiting both the quantity and quality of data collected. We present a new method for monitoring large-scale movement of marine vertebrates that uses behavioural data stored on a surgically implanted data logger. The technique (‘behavioural geolocation’) relies on the principles of light-based geolocation but rather than measuring ambient light levels, changes in diving behaviour associated with sunrise and sunset are used to infer daylength and time of local sunrise, and hence location. We present data from a trial, post-hoc, analysis of diving data collected from macaroni penguins Eudyptes chrysolophus during long foraging trips associated with incubation and preparation for moult. Our results showed that the penguins usually travelled to the polar frontal zone to the north of their breeding colony at South Georgia, an area broadly consistent with previously measured behaviour and the availability of preferred prey at this period of the annual cycle.


Penguin Geolocation Foraging Polar frontal zone 



The authors would like to thank N. Warren who assisted in the retrieval of the data loggers and the rest of the science team at Bird Island, especially J. Tanton. The authors would also like to thank R. P. Phillips, J. R. D. Silk and B. Kreuter who assisted in preliminary discussions on the possibilities of behavioural geolocation and techniques involved. Several anonymous referees provided helpful criticism on earlier versions of this manuscript. The authors are also grateful for support provided by M. Coyne and Maptool software; more information available at Data on equation of time available from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London, UK ( This work was funded by NERC under their Antarctic Funding Initiative (AFI) with logistical support provided by the British Antarctic Survey.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan A. Green
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Rory P. Wilson
    • 2
  • Ian L. Boyd
    • 3
  • Anthony J. Woakes
    • 4
  • Chris J. Green
    • 5
  • Patrick J. Butler
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Environmental Sustainability, School of the Environment and SocietyUniversity of SwanseaSwanseaUK
  3. 3.Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine LabUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK
  4. 4.School of BiosciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  5. 5.British Antarctic SurveyCambridgeUK
  6. 6.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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