At-sea behaviour of three krill predators breeding at Bouvetøya—Antarctic fur seals, macaroni penguins and chinstrap penguins

10 Apr 2013

Interspecific competition is an important structuring element in marine ecosystems, especially in the Southern Ocean which offers few prey choices to comparatively large predator populations. We present the first simultaneous observations of at-sea behaviour and attendance patterns of 3 synchronously breeding, central place, krill foragers at Bouvetøya—a small, isolated, sub-Antarctic island in the South Atlantic. Time depth recorders and satellite transmitters were deployed during the austral summer of 2007/2008 on 47 lactating Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella (AFS) rearing pups and on 20 macaroni Eudyptes chrysolophus (MAC) and 30 chinstrap Pygoscelis antarctica penguins (CHIN) rearing chicks. All 3 species showed a strong preference for the west side of the island, and their foraging ranges overlapped markedly. Solar elevation influenced the timing of departures from, and arrivals to, the island with markedly different patterns between the seals and the penguins. Diving patterns also showed significant differences among the 3 species, with the frequency of diving being higher at night for the AFS, while both penguin species dove more frequently during the day. But a common, vertical diel pattern occurred in all 3 species, with shallow diving occurring at night and deep diving during the day, consistent with the vertical migration of krill. MACs targeted 2 depth layers for feeding, including a deep prey layer at ~70 m, which was not exploited by AFSs and CHINs. The results suggest that there is potential for competitive overlap among these 3 krill predators at Bouvetøya, but that it is reduced via both spatial (horizontal and vertical) and temporal partitioning of foraging areas.