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Spatial niche partitioning may promote coexistence of Pygoscelis penguins as climate-induced sympatry occurs

TitleSpatial niche partitioning may promote coexistence of Pygoscelis penguins as climate-induced sympatry occurs
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsPickett E.P, Fraser W.R, Patterson-Fraser D.L, Cimino M.A, Torres L.G, Friedlaender A.S
JournalEcology and Evolution
Date Published2018/10
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number2045-7758
Accession NumberWOS:000448803000017
KeywordsAdelie penguin; breeding adelie penguins; chinstrap; climate change; diving behavior; ecological segregation; Environmental Sciences & Ecology; euphausia-superba; Evolutionary Biology; foraging; gentoo; home-range; interspecific competition; king-george-island; lter; palmer; papua; penguin; penguins; Pygoscelis; Pygoscelis adeliae; range shift; southern-ocean; space use; western antarctic peninsula

Climate-induced range overlap can result in novel interactions between similar species and potentially lead to competitive exclusion. The West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth and is experiencing a poleward climate migration from a polar to subpolar environment. This has resulted in a range expansion of the ice-intolerant gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) and a coincident decrease in ice-obligate Adelie penguins (P.adeliae) near Palmer Station, Anvers Island, WAP. Ecologically similar species that share a limited prey resource must occupy disparate foraging niches in order to co-exist. Therefore, we determined the extent of foraging and dietary niche segregation between Adelie and gentoo penguins during the austral breeding season near Palmer Station. This research was conducted across six breeding seasons, from 2009 to 2014, which allowed us to investigate niche overlap in the context of interannual resource variability. Using biotelemetry and diet sampling, we found substantial overlap in the diets of Adelie and gentoo penguins, who primarily consumed Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba); however, our results showed that Adelie and gentoo penguins partitioned this shared prey resource through horizontal segregation of their core foraging areas. We did not find evidence that Antarctic krill were a limiting resource during the breeding season or that climate-induced sympatry of Adelie and gentoo penguins resulted in competition for prey or caused the subsequent differing population trajectories. This apparent absence of resource competition between Adelie and gentoo penguins throughout this study implies that current population trends in this region are governed by other biological and physical factors. Our results highlight the importance of understanding the mechanistic processes that influence top predator populations in the context of climate-driven ecosystem shifts.

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