Sea-ice edge is more important than closer open water access for foraging Adélie penguins: Evidence from two colonies

C. Michelot, A. Kato, T. Raclot, K. Shiomi, P. Goulet, P. Bustamante, Y. Ropert-Coudert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Sentinel species, like Adélie penguins, have been used to assess the impact of environmental changes, and their link with sea ice has received considerable attention. Here, we tested if foraging Adélie penguins from 2 colonies in East Antarctica target the distant sea-ice edge or take advantage of closer open waters that are readily available near their colony. We examined the foraging behaviour of penguins during the incubation trips of females in 2016 and males in 2017, using GPS tracking and diet data in view of daily sea-ice data and bathymetry. In 2016-2017, sea-ice cover was extensive during females' trips but flaw leads and polynyas were close to both study sites. Sea ice receded rapidly during males' trips in 2017-2018. Despite close open water near both colonies in both years, females and males preferentially targeted the continental slope and the sea-ice edge to forage. In addition, there was no difference in the diet of penguins from both colonies: all penguins fed mostly on Antarctic krill and males also foraged on Antarctic silverfish. Our results highlight the importance of the sea-ice edge for penguins, an area where food abundance is predictable. It is likely that resource availability was not sufficient in closer open water areas at such an early stage in the breeding season. The behaviours displayed by the penguins from both colonies were similar, suggesting a common behaviour across colonies in Terre Adélie, although additional sites would be necessary to confirm this hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-230
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Mar 23
Externally publishedYes


  • Colony
  • Diet
  • GPS
  • Incubation trip
  • Pygoscelis adeliae
  • Sea-ice edge
  • Stable isotopes Resale or republication not permitted without written consent of the publisher

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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