Stable isotopes reveal Holocene changes in the diet of Ad,lie penguins in Northern Victoria Land (Ross Sea, Antarctica)

TitleStable isotopes reveal Holocene changes in the diet of Ad,lie penguins in Northern Victoria Land (Ross Sea, Antarctica)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsLorenzini, S, Baroni, C, Fallick, AE, Baneschi, I, Salvatore, MCristina, Zanchetta, G, Dallai, L

Ad,lie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) modern and fossil eggshells and guano samples collected from ornithogenic soils in Terra Nova Bay (Victoria Land, Ross Sea) were processed for carbon and nitrogen isotopic ratios with the aim of detecting past penguin dietary changes. A detailed and greatly expanded Ad,lie penguin dietary record dated back to 7,200 years BP has been reconstructed for the investigated area. Our data indicate a significant dietary shift between fish and krill, with a gradual decrease from past to present time in the proportion of fish compared to krill in Ad,lie penguin diet. From 7,200 to 2,000 years BP, delta(13)C and delta(15)N values indicate fish as the most eaten prey. The dietary contribution of lower-trophic prey in penguin diet started becoming evident not earlier than 2,000 years BP, when the delta(13)C values reveal a change in the penguin feeding behavior. Modern eggshell and guano samples reveal a major dietary contribution of krill but not a krill-dominated diet, since delta(13)C values remain much too high if krill prevail in the diet. According to the Holocene environmental background attested for Victoria Land, Ad,lie penguin dietary shifts between fish and krill seem to reflect penguin paleoecological responses to different paleoenvironmental settings with different conditions of sea-ice extension and persistence. Furthermore, Ad,lie penguin diet appears to be particularly affected by environmental changes in a very specific period within the breeding season, namely the egg-laying period when penguin dietary and feeding habit shifts are clearly documented by the delta(13)C of eggshell carbonate.