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Trophic ecology of Grey-headed albatrosses from Marion Island, Southern Ocean: insights from stomach contents and diet tracers
Richoux, N.B.; Jaquemet, S.; Bonnevie, B.T.; Cherel, Y.; McQuaid, C.D. (2010). Trophic ecology of Grey-headed albatrosses from Marion Island, Southern Ocean: insights from stomach contents and diet tracers. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 157(8): 1755-1766.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Richoux, N.B.
  • Jaquemet, S.
  • Bonnevie, B.T.
  • Cherel, Y.
  • McQuaid, C.D.

    During chick-rearing, albatrosses can alternate between long foraging trips that provide the main source of food for the adults and short foraging trips that they use to feed their young. This flexibility in foraging behaviour can lead to differences in diet composition between adults and chicks and implies that they may be vulnerable in different ways to food shortages. The trophic ecology of the Grey-headed albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma was investigated at the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands during the chick-rearing period in April 2006 using a combination of approaches. Diets of adults and chicks were assessed using stable isotope ratios and fatty acid (FA) profiles of blood and/or stomach oils, in addition to stomach contents analysis. Fish from the family Macrouridae and cephalopods (particularly the onychoteuthid Kondakovia longimana) were the primary prey, whereas crustaceans (krill Euphausia superba) represented a smaller proportion of the stomach contents. Stomach oil FA profiles contained more monounsaturated FA than the profiles of plasma, which were richer in saturated FA and arachidonic acid (20:4n-6). There was also a distinct separation of adults from chicks, with higher levels of monounsaturates in chick plasma, and higher saturated FA levels (particularly 16:0) in the adult plasma. Stable carbon isotope ratios of whole blood were similar in adults and chicks, whereas stable nitrogen isotope ratios showed significant enrichment by >1‰ in chicks. The combined FA, stable isotopes and stomach contents analyses suggest clear differences in diet quality between adults and chicks, with chicks feeding at a higher trophic position through feeding more on highly nutritious fish and adults keeping much of the less nutritious zooplankton for themselves.

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