U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES Vol. 344: 277-297, 2007.


Central-place foragers that must return to a breeding site to deliver food to offspring are faced with trade-offs between prey patch quality and distance from the colony. Among colonial animals, pinnipeds and seabirds may have different provisioning strategies, due to differences in their ability to travel and store energy. We compared the foraging areas of lactating Antarctic fur seals and chinstrap penguins breeding at Seal Island, Antarctica, to investigate whether they responded differently to the distribution of their prey (Antarctic krill and myctophid fish) and spatial heterogeneity in their habitat. Dense krill concentrations occurred in the shelf region near the colony. However, only brooding penguins, which are expected to be time-minimizers because they must return frequently with whole food for their chicks, foraged mainly in this proximal shelf region. Lactating fur seals and incubating penguins, which can make longer trips to increase energy gain per trip, and so are expected to be energy-maximizers, foraged in the more distant (>20 km from the island) slope and oceanic regions. The shelf region was characterized by more abundant, but lower-energy-content immature krill, whereas the slope and oceanic regions had less abundant but higher-energy-content gravid krill, as well as high-energy-content myctophids. Furthermore, krill in the shelf region undertook diurnal vertical migration, whereas those in the slope and oceanic regions stayed near the surface throughout the day, which may enhance the capture rate for visual predators. Therefore, we sug- gest that the energy-maximizers foraged in distant, but potentially more profitable feeding regions, while the time-minimizers foraged in closer, but potentially less profitable regions. Thus, time and energy constraints derived from different provisioning strategies may result in sympatric colonial predator species using different foraging areas, and as a result, some central-place foragers use sub- optimal foraging habitats, in terms of the quality or quantity of available prey.