JR161: Food webs in the Antarctic



Cruise Diary

Thursday 30 November
Scotia Sea: Lat 55.32.34S, Long 44.46.56 W

Day 38 of the cruise JR161 aboard the British Antarctic Research Ship RSS James Clark Ross

Tom writes:

We are just leaving the last process station to the north of South Georgia. This has been a high-productivity region characterised by large phytoplankton populations, lots of krill and plenty of higher predators including whales, penguins and seals.

We now head for our final condensed station even further north, a location chosen not by the scientists but by members of the King Penguin colonies on South Georgia.  Last season, Dr Martin Collins of BAS attached several satellite receivers to 3 king penguins, and these have sent back information on the location of the penguins as they forage for food in the open ocean. This has identified the preferred region in which the penguins choose to feed, some 250 miles north of South Georgia. At this last science station we hope to characterise the food-web structure at the penguin’s feeding location and obtain information on the preferred diet of the king penguin. This information will help to understand the biology of the king penguins and predict what impact of commercial fishing and environmental change in the region may have on these populations.

King Penguins can reach over 20 kgs in weight, and during chick-rearing undertake feeding trips of up to 25 days, and can travel over 400 miles from their colonies.  Attaching satellite transmitters to key species in Antarctica (called Bio-logging), such as seals and albatrosses, is providing new insights into their behaviour.

Above: Map showing the movement of two King Penguins as they travel north from South Georgia to the polar front to forage for food, including krill and fish.


More soon - please visit us again in a few days' time for the next installment....

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