Are penguins and seals in competition for Antarctic krill at South Georgia?

first_imgThe Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) and macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) are sympatric top predators that occur in the Southern Ocean around South Georgia where they are, respectively, the main mammal and bird consumers of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). In recent years the population of fur seals has increased, whereas that of macaroni penguins has declined. Both species feed on krill of similar size ranges, dive to similar depths and are restricted in their foraging range at least while provisioning their offspring. In this study we test the hypothesis that the increased fur seal population at South Georgia may have resulted in greater competition for the prey of macaroni penguins, leading to the decline in their population. We used: (1) satellite-tracking data to investigate the spatial separation of the Bird Island populations of these two species whilst at sea during the breeding seasons of 1999 and 2000 and (2) diet data to assess potential changes in their trophic niches between 1989 and 2000. Foraging ranges of the two species showed considerable overlap in both years, but the concentrations of foraging activity were significantly segregated spatially. The size of krill taken by both species was very similar, but over the last 12 years the prevalence of krill in their diets has diverged, with nowadays less krill in the diet of macaroni penguins than in that of Antarctic fur seals. Despite a significant degree of segregation in spatial resource use by the study populations, it is likely that the South Georgia populations of Antarctic fur seal and macaroni penguin exploit the same krill population during their breeding season. For explaining the opposing population trends of the two species, the relative contributions of independent differential response to interannual variation in krill availability and of interspecies competition cannot be resolved with available evidence. The likely competitive advantage of Antarctic fur seals will be enhanced as their population continues to increase, particularly in years of krill scarcity.last_img read more

Outer organic layer and internal repair mechanism protects pteropod Limacina helicina from ocean acidification

first_imgScarred shells of polar pteropod Limacina helicina collected from the Greenland Sea in June 2012 reveal a history of damage, most likely failed predation, in earlier life stages. Evidence of shell fracture and subsequent re-growth is commonly observed in specimens recovered from the sub-Arctic and further afield. However, at one site within sea-ice on the Greenland shelf, shells that had been subject to mechanical damage were also found to exhibit considerable dissolution. It was evident that shell dissolution was localised to areas where the organic, periostracal sheet that covers the outer shell had been damaged at some earlier stage during the animal’s life. Where the periostracum remained intact, the shell appeared pristine with no sign of dissolution. Specimens which appeared to be pristine following collection were incubated for four days. Scarring of shells that received periostracal damage during collection only became evident in specimens that were incubated in waters undersaturated with respect to aragonite, ΩAr≤1. While the waters from which the damaged specimens were collected at the Greenland Sea sea-ice margin were not Ω Ar ≤1, the water column did exhibit the lowest ΩAr values observed in the Greenland and Barents Seas, and was likely to have approached ΩAr≤1 during the winter months. We demonstrate that L. helicina shells are only susceptible to dissolution where both the periostracum has been breached and the aragonite beneath the breach is exposed to waters of ΩAr≤1. Exposure of multiple layers of aragonite in areas of deep dissolution indicate that, as with many molluscs, L. helicina is able to patch up dissolution damage to the shell by secreting additional aragonite internally and maintain their shell. We conclude that, unless breached, the periostracum provides an effective shield for pteropod shells against dissolution in waters ΩAr≤1, and when dissolution does occur the animal has an effective means of self-repair. We suggest that future studies of pteropod shell condition are undertaken on specimens from which the periostracum has not been removed in preparation.last_img read more