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Variability in at-sea foraging behaviour of little penguins Eudyptula minor in response to fine-scale environmental features


Phillips, LR and Hindell, M and Hobday, AJ and Lea, M-A, Variability in at-sea foraging behaviour of little penguins Eudyptula minor in response to fine-scale environmental features, Marine Ecology - Progress Series, 627 pp. 141-154. ISSN 0171-8630 (2019) [Refereed Article]

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The authors 2019. Open Access under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence. ( Use, distribution and reproduction are un - restricted. Authors and original publication must be credited.

DOI: doi:10.3354/meps13095


A long-standing question in ecology is how predators interact with their environment when locating patchily distributed prey. There is some evidence to suggest that marine predators use environmental features as foraging cues at meso-scales (100-1000 km); however, the role of environmental structure at finer scales (1-100 km) is less well understood. To investigate how marine predators respond to fine-scale environmental variability, the movement patterns of 29 GPS-tagged little penguins Eudyptula minor from 3 colonies in the highly variable Storm Bay ecosystem in south-eastern Tasmania, Australia, were analysed using hidden Markov behavioural state modelling alongside high-resolution environmental data. Variability in at-sea behavioural states was observed between colonies correlating with differences in fine-scale environmental parameters. There were significant differences in trip metrics and time spent in each of the identified behavioural states between each of the study colonies. Additionally, transitions between behavioural states were associated with different environmental parameters at each site. This variability in foraging behaviour for conspecifics at similar temporal scales illustrates the significance of fine-scale environmental variability in determining at-sea predator behaviour and highlights how even subtle differences in fine-scale environmental parameters can lead to alternative foraging strategies. This flexibility suggests a capacity to behaviourally adapt to variable and changing environmental conditions, a necessary condition for persistence in a changing world.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:ecology, behavioural plasticity, environmental variability, ecological patterns, ecological processes
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Behavioural ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Phillips, LR (Mr Lachlan Phillips)
UTAS Author:Hindell, M (Professor Mark Hindell)
UTAS Author:Lea, M-A (Professor Mary-Anne Lea)
ID Code:135118
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2019-10-01
Last Modified:2020-01-07
Downloads:14 View Download Statistics

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