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Blood fatty acids indicate inter- and intra-annual variation in the diet of Adelie penguins: Comparison with stomach content and stable isotope analysis

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posted on 2023-05-16, 23:14 authored by Tierney, M, Nichols, PD, Wheatley, KE, Mark HindellMark Hindell
Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) diet is an important indicator of prevailing environmental conditions and resource availability. In this study, dietary variation within and between years was studied with fatty acid signature analysis (FASA), stomach content analysis (SCA) and stable isotope analysis (SIA). We profiled the fatty acid (FA) composition of whole blood collected from adult penguins throughout the breeding season, and from chicks during the crèche period, in 2001 and 2002. Differences were detected in FA profiles between years, breeding stage and age (adults vs. chicks). These patterns broadly corresponded to those observed from SCA and SIA, with a mix of krill and fish consumed in the early part of the breeding season in both years, krill dominating the diet during the chick-rearing periods in 2001, and fish in 2002. Different metabolic and physiological demands between stages, and ages, may also influence FA profiles but warrants further investigation. In-situ calibrations of adult FA blood profiles were made using corresponding stomach samples to quantify diet composition. Using linear discriminate function analysis, we classified adult FA profiles into 3 meal-types: krill, fish or mixed. A higher proportion of adults had fish-like profiles during the arrival and guard periods. Krill-like profiles dominated during the incubation and crèche periods, although there were a relatively high proportion of fish-like and mixed profiles as well. These patterns corresponded to results from SCA and SIA. This study demonstrates that FASA has the potential to be integrated with other dietary tools to enhance diet monitoring studies, which are currently integral to ecosystem management and conservation measures. The in-situ calibration method used offers a simple and effective alternative to more rigorous calibration techniques developed elsewhere. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Publication title

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology








School of Natural Sciences


Elsevier BV

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Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems

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