Foraging ecology of gentoo penguins pygoscelis papua at the Falkland Islands
Marine top predators often occupy broad geographical ranges that encompass varied habitats. Therefore, a pre-requisite towards conserving these animals is to determine the components of their realized niche, and investigate whether a species is a specialist or a generalist. For generalist species, i...
|Format:||Doctoral or Postdoctoral Thesis|
Nelson Mandela University
|Summary:||Marine top predators often occupy broad geographical ranges that encompass varied habitats. Therefore, a pre-requisite towards conserving these animals is to determine the components of their realized niche, and investigate whether a species is a specialist or a generalist. For generalist species, it is also necessary to understand if local specialisation occurs. Uncovering these components can allow us to build models of a species realized niche that may then be used to infer habitat use in unsampled locations. However, fully understanding the components of a marine top predators realized niche is challenging owing to the limited opportunity for in situ observations. Overcoming these limitations is a key step in marine top predator research. It will enhance our understanding of trophic coupling in marine systems, and aid in the development of tools to better study these predators in their dynamic environment. Seabirds, penguins (Spheniscids) in particular, are a group of animals for which investigating their realized niche is of vital importance. This is because numerous species face growing uncertainty in the Anthropocene, and in a time of rapid environmental change there is furthermore a need to better understand the potential use of these birds as indicators of ecosystem health. The aim of this thesis, therefore, is to investigate the foraging ecology of gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) at the Falkland Islands. At the Falkland Islands, limited historical information exists regarding this species foraging ecology, with most information coming from a single location at the Falklands. As the Falkland Islands have the world’s largest population of gentoo penguins, elucidating factors influencing this population will have global relevance. Furthermore, historical information indicated potential competition with fisheries, and with prospecting for hydrocarbons and an inshore fishery, there is a need to understand the distribution of these birds across the islands. Penguins are also well suited to carry ...|