University Of Tasmania
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Habitat use and sex-specific foraging behaviour of Adélie penguins throughout the breeding season in Adélie Land, East Antarctica

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 16:11 authored by Widmann, M, Kato, A, Ben RaymondBen Raymond, Angelier, F, Benjamin Arthur, Chastel, O, Pelle, M, Raclot, T, Ropert-Coudert, Y


Marine predators are ecosystem sentinels because their foraging behaviour and reproductive success reflect the variability occurring in the lower trophic levels of the ecosystem. In an era of environmental change, monitoring top predators species can provide valuable insights into the zones of ecological importance that need to be protected. In this context, we monitored the Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) as a bio-indicator near Dumont d’Urville, an area of the East Antarctic sector currently being considered for the establishment of a Marine Protected Area (MPA), using GPS-based tracking tags during the 2012/13 austral summer breeding season.


The habitat use and foraging areas of the penguins differed by breeding stage and sex and were strongly associated with patterns in bathymetry and sea-ice distribution. The first trips, undertaken during the incubation phase, were longer than those during the guard phase and were associated with the northern limit of the sea-ice extent. During the guard phase, birds strongly depended on access to a polynya, a key feature in Antarctic marine ecosystem, in the vicinity of the colony. The opening of the ice-free area was synchronous with the hatching of chicks. Moreover, a sex-specific use of foraging habitat observed only after hatching suggests sex-specific differences in the diet in response to intra-specific competition.


Sea-ice features that could be affected by the climate change were important factors for the use of foraging habitat by the Adélie penguins. The extent of the foraging area observed in this study is congruent with the area of the proposed MPA. However, both penguin behavior and their environment should be monitored carefully.


Publication title

Movement Ecology

Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Biomed Central Ltd

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© 2015 Widmann et al. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Biodiversity in Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments