Measurement of the time allocation of penguins at sea has been a major goal of researchers in recent years. Until now, however, no equipment has been available that would allow measurement of the aquatic and terrestrial behaviour of an Antarctic penguin while it is commuting between the colony and the foraging grounds. A new motion detector, based on the measurement of acceleration, has been used here in addition to current methods of inferring behaviour using data loggers that monitor depth and speed. We present data on the time allocation of Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) according to the different types of behaviours they display during their foraging trips: walking, tobogganing, standing on land, lying on land, resting at the water surface, porpoising and diving. To illustrate the potential of this new technique, we compared the behaviour of Adelie penguins during the chick-rearing period in a fast sea-ice region and an ice-free region. The proportion of time spent standing, lying on land and walking during foraging trips was greater for penguins in the sea-ice region (37.6+/−13.3% standing, 21.6+/−15.6% lying and 5.9+/−6.3% walking) than for those in the ice-free region (12.0+/−15.8 % standing, 0.38+/−0.60% lying and 0 % walking), whereas the proportion of time spent resting at the water surface and porpoising was greater for birds in the ice-free region (38.1+/−6.4% resting and 1.1+/−1.1% porpoising) than for those in the sea-ice region (3.0+/−2.3% resting and 0% porpoising; means +/− s.d., N=7 for the sea-ice region, N=4 for the ice-free region). Using this new approach, further studies combining the monitoring of marine resources in different Antarctic sites and the measurement of the energy expenditure of foraging penguins, e.g. using heart rates, will constitute a powerful tool for investigating the effects of environmental conditions on their foraging strategy. This technique will expand our ability to monitor many animals in the field.
A new technique for monitoring the behaviour of free-ranging Adelie penguins
K. Yoda, Y. Naito, K. Sato, A. Takahashi, J. Nishikawa, Y. Ropert-Coudert, M. Kurita, Y. Le Maho; A new technique for monitoring the behaviour of free-ranging Adelie penguins. J Exp Biol 15 February 2001; 204 (4): 685–690. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.204.4.685
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