Research Article

Long-term variation in the breeding diets of macaroni and eastern rockhopper penguins at Marion Island (1994–2018)

Published in: African Journal of Marine Science
Volume 43, issue 2, 2021 , pages: 187–199
DOI: 10.2989/1814232X.2021.1901248
Author(s): FE Dakwa, South Africa, PG Ryan, South Africa, BM Dyer, South Africa, RJM Crawford, South Africa, PA Pistorius, South Africa, AB Makhado, South Africa

Abstract

Populations of the macaroni penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus and the eastern rockhopper penguin E. filholi breeding at Marion Island (Prince Edward Islands) in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean decreased from 1994 to 2018. We examined their diets when rearing chicks during this period. There was substantial overlap in the diets of the two species, with crustaceans, dominated by the euphausiids Thysanoessa vicina and Euphausia vallentini, making up >80% of the diets by number and >60% by mass over the study period. The lanternfishes Krefftichthys anderssoni and Protomyctophum tenisoni were the most-commonly consumed fish in the diet of breeding macaroni penguins and dominated in their diet in three of the 25 years (1994, 1998 and 2014); they were also the most commonly consumed fish by eastern rockhopper penguins. Macaroni penguins consumed more of the amphipod crustacean Themisto gaudichaudii and the lanternfish Electrona carlsbergi as well as a greater diversity of and larger-sized fish than did eastern rockhopper penguins. The horsefish Zanclorhynchus spinifer was found in substantial amounts in the diet of eastern rockhopper penguins in 1996 and 1997. Despite annual variations in relative prey contributions to the diets, there were no significant long-term changes in the diet of either penguin species over the study period or when compared with an earlier assessment in 1982. We conclude that changes in the relative proportions of prey in the diets of these penguin species during breeding are unlikely to account for the recent declines in these penguin populations.

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