Concept: Gentoo Penguin
Climate change is a major threat to global biodiversity. Antarctic ecosystems are no exception. Investigating past species responses to climatic events can distinguish natural from anthropogenic impacts. Climate change produces ‘winners’, species that benefit from these events and ‘losers’, species that decline or become extinct. Using molecular techniques, we assess the demographic history and population structure of Pygoscelis penguins in the Scotia Arc related to climate warming after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). All three pygoscelid penguins responded positively to post-LGM warming by expanding from glacial refugia, with those breeding at higher latitudes expanding most. Northern (Pygoscelis papua papua) and Southern (Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii) gentoo sub-species likely diverged during the LGM. Comparing historical responses with the literature on current trends, we see Southern gentoo penguins are responding to current warming as they did during post-LGM warming, expanding their range southwards. Conversely, Adélie and chinstrap penguins are experiencing a ‘reversal of fortunes’ as they are now declining in the Antarctic Peninsula, the opposite of their response to post-LGM warming. This suggests current climate warming has decoupled historic population responses in the Antarctic Peninsula, favoring generalist gentoo penguins as climate change ‘winners’, while Adélie and chinstrap penguins have become climate change ‘losers’.
In contrast to their terrestrial call, the offshore call of penguins during their foraging trips has been poorly studied due to the inaccessibility of the foraging site-the open ocean-to researchers. Here, we present the first description of the vocal behaviour of penguins in the open ocean and discuss the function of their vocal communication. We deployed an animal-borne camera on gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) and recorded their foraging behaviour during chick guarding. From the video recordings, we collected 598 offshore calls from 10 individuals in two breeding seasons (2014-2015 and 2015-2016), and we analysed the acoustic characteristics and behavioural contexts of these calls, including diving patterns, group association events, and foraging behaviour. The offshore calls varied in their dominant frequency and length, and penguins produced calls of different lengths in succession. Group associations were observed within one minute following an offshore call in almost half of the instances (43.18%). Penguins undertook dives of shallower depths and shorter durations after producing an offshore call than those before producing an offshore call. Our findings show that penguins may use vocal communication in the ocean related with group association during foraging trips.
Climate-driven sympatry may lead to competition for food resources between species. Rapid warming in the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is coincident with increasing gentoo penguin and decreasing Adélie penguin populations, suggesting that competition for food may exacerbate the Adélie penguin decline. On fine scales, we tested for foraging competition between these species during the chick-rearing period by comparing their foraging behaviors with the distribution of their prey, Antarctic krill. We detected krill aggregations within the horizontal and vertical foraging ranges of Adélie and gentoo penguins, and found that krill selected for habitats that balance the need to consume food and avoid predation. In overlapping Adélie and gentoo penguin foraging areas, four gentoo penguins switched foraging behavior by foraging at deeper depths, a strategy which limits competition with Adélie penguins. This suggests that climate-driven sympatry does not necessarily result in competitive exclusion of Adélie penguins by gentoo penguins. Contrary to a recent theory, which suggests that increased competition for krill is one of the major drivers of Adélie penguin population declines, we suggest that declines in Adélie penguins along the WAP are more likely due to direct and indirect climate impacts on their life histories.
The aim of this work is to contribute to the knowledge of gastrointestinal parasites of the Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) from 25 de Mayo/King George Island (South Shetlands, Antarctica). Gastrointestinal tracts of 37 fresh dead individuals (21 chicks, 10 juveniles, and 6 adults) were collected from December 2006 to February 2012 and examined for macroparasites. Four adult parasite species were found: one Cestoda species (Parorchites zederi), two Nematoda species (Stegophorus macronectes and Tetrameres wetzeli), and one Acanthocephalan (Corynosoma shackletoni). Two species of immature acanthocephalans, Corynosoma hamanni and Corynosoma bullosum, were found in a single host. This is the first record of Tetrameres wetzeli in Gentoo penguins. The low parasite richness observed could be related to the stenophagic and pelagic diet of this host species which feeds almost exclusively on krill.
Aggregations of young animals are common in a range of endothermic and ectothermic species, yet the adaptive behavior may depend on social circumstance and local conditions. In penguins, many species form aggregations (aka. crèches) for a variety of purposes, whilst others have never been observed exhibiting this behavior. Those that do form aggregations do so for three known benefits: 1) reduced thermoregulatory requirements, 2) avoidance of unrelated-adult aggression, and 3) lower predation risk. In gentoo penguins, Pygoscelis papua, chick aggregations are known to form during the post-guard period, yet the cause of these aggregations is poorly understood. Here, for the first time, we study aggregation behavior in gentoo penguins, examining four study sites along a latitudinal gradient using time-lapse cameras to examine the adaptive benefit of aggregations to chicks. Our results support the idea that aggregations of gentoo chicks decrease an individual’s energetic expenditure when wet, cold conditions are present. However, we found significant differences in aggregation behavior between the lowest latitude site, Maiviken, South Georgia, and two of the higher latitude sites on the Antarctic Peninsula, suggesting this behavior may be colony specific. We provide strong evidence that more chicks aggregate and a larger number of aggregations occur on South Georgia, while the opposite occurs at Petermann Island in Antarctica. Future studies should evaluate multiple seabird colonies within one species before generalizing behaviors based on one location, and past studies may need to be re-evaluated to determine whether chick aggregation and other behaviors are in fact exhibited species-wide.
Changes in penguin populations on the Antarctic Peninsula have been linked to several environmental factors, but the potentially devastating impact of volcanic activity has not been considered. Here we use detailed biogeochemical analyses to track past penguin colony change over the last 8,500 years on Ardley Island, home to one of the Antarctic Peninsula’s largest breeding populations of gentoo penguins. The first sustained penguin colony was established on Ardley Island c. 6,700 years ago, pre-dating sub-fossil evidence of Peninsula-wide occupation by c. 1,000 years. The colony experienced five population maxima during the Holocene. Overall, we find no consistent relationships with local-regional atmospheric and ocean temperatures or sea-ice conditions, although the colony population maximum, c. 4,000-3,000 years ago, corresponds with regionally elevated temperatures. Instead, at least three of the five phases of penguin colony expansion were abruptly ended by large eruptions from the Deception Island volcano, resulting in near-complete local extinction of the colony, with, on average, 400-800 years required for sustainable recovery.
We identified 3 novel and distinct avulaviruses from Gentoo penguins sampled in Antarctica. We isolated these viruses and sequenced their complete genomes; serologic assays demonstrated that the viruses do not have cross-reactivity between them. Our findings suggest that these 3 new viruses represent members of 3 novel avulavirus species.
Knowledge about sexual segregation and gender-specific, or indeed individual specialization, in marine organisms has improved considerably in the past decade. In this context, we tested the “Intersexual Competition Hypothesis” for penguins by investigating the feeding ecology of Gentoo penguins during their austral winter non-breeding season. We considered this during unusual environmental conditions (i.e. the year 2009 had observations of high sea surface and air temperatures) in comparison with the long term average at Bird Island, South Georgia. Through conventional (i.e. stomach contents) and stable isotopic values from red blood cells, plasma and feathers of both male and female Gentoo penguins, we showed that there were significant differences between sexes, with males feeding mainly on fish (54% by mass) followed by crustaceans (38%) whereas females fed mainly on crustaceans (89% by mass) followed by fish (4%). Themisto gaudichaudii was the most important crustacean prey for males (64% by mass; 82% by number; 53% by frequency of occurrence) and females (63% by mass; 77% by number; 89% by frequency of occurrence), contrasting with all previous studies that found Antarctic krill Euphausia superba were generally the main prey. Stable isotopic data showed that, in terms of habitat use (based on δ 13C), there were significant differences in short-term carbon signatures between males and females (based on plasma and red blood cells), suggesting that both sexes explored different habitats, with females exploring more offshore pelagic waters and males feeding more in coastal benthic waters. Based on δ 15N, males fed on significantly higher trophic level than females (based on plasma and red blood cells), in agreement with our diet results., Thus, Gentoo penguins behave in a similar manner to other non-breeding penguins species (e.g. king, macaroni and rockhopper penguins), albeit at a smaller spatial scale (as they do not disperse as these other penguins do), in that they have a wider habitat and trophic niche during the Antarctic Winter (in comparison to Summer). We also detected individual specialization in feeding/trophic levels for each gender, with certain males feeding mainly on fish and certain females mainly on crustaceans, which may be driven the prevailing environmental conditions that lead individuals to search for alternative prey, and cause sexual diet segregation. Our results provide further information to help improve understanding about sexual segregation and individual specialization of marine organisms, while contributing valuable information on the winter diet for Antarctic monitoring programs and for modelling Antarctic marine food webs.
Foraging efficiency determines whether animals will be able to raise healthy broods, maintain their own condition, avoid predators and ultimately increase their fitness. Using accelerometers and GPS loggers, features of the habitat and the way animals deal with variable conditions can be translated into energetic costs of movement, which, in turn, can be translated to energy landscapes.We investigated energy landscapes in Gentoo Penguins Pygoscelis papua from two colonies at New Island, Falkland/Malvinas Islands.
Two main hypotheses have been debated about the biogeography of the Southern Ocean: (1) the Antarctic Polar Front (APF), acting as a barrier between Antarctic and sub-Antarctic provinces, and (2) the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), promoting gene flow among sub-Antarctic areas. The Gentoo penguin is distributed throughout these two provinces, separated by the APF. We analyzed mtDNA (HVR1) and 12 microsatellite loci of 264 Gentoo penguins, Pygoscelis papua, from 12 colonies spanning from the Western Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands (WAP) to the sub-Antarctic Islands (SAI). While low genetic structure was detected among WAP colonies (mtDNA ФST=0.037-0.133; microsatellite FST=0.009-0.063), high differentiation was found between all SAI and WAP populations (mtDNA ФST = 0.678-0.930; microsatellite FST = 0.110-0.290). These results suggest that contemporary dispersal around the Southern Ocean is very limited or absent. As predicted, the APF appears to be a significant biogeographical boundary for Gentoo penguin populations; however, the ACC does not promote connectivity in this species. Our data suggest demographic expansion in the WAP during the last glacial maximum (LGM, about 20 Kya), but stability in SAI. Phylogenetic analyses showed a deep divergence between populations from the WAP and those from the SAI. Therefore, taxonomy should be further revised. The Crozet Islands resulted as a basal clade (3.57 Mya), followed by the Kerguelen Islands (2.32 Mya) as well as a more recent divergence between the Falkland/Malvinas Islands and the WAP (1.27 Mya). Historical isolation, local adaptation, and past climate scenarios of those Evolutionarily Significant Units may have led to different potentials to respond to climate changes.