Marine predators adapt their hunting techniques to locate and capture prey in response to their surrounding environment. However, little is known about how certain strategies influence foraging success and efficiency. Due to the miniaturisation of animal tracking technologies, a single individual can be equipped with multiple data loggers to obtain multi-scale tracking information. With the addition of animal-borne video data loggers, it is possible to provide context-specific information for movement data obtained over the video recording periods. Through a combination of video data loggers, accelerometers, GPS and depth recorders, this study investigated the influence of habitat, sex and the presence of other predators on the foraging success and efficiency of the endangered African penguin, Spheniscus demersus, from two colonies in Algoa Bay, South Africa. Due to limitations in the battery life of video data loggers, a machine learning model was developed to detect prey captures across full foraging trips. The model was validated using prey capture signals detected in concurrently recording accelerometers and animal-borne cameras and was then applied to detect prey captures throughout the full foraging trip of each individual. Using GPS and bathymetry information to inform the position of dives, individuals were observed to perform both pelagic and benthic diving behaviour. Females were generally more successful on pelagic dives than males, suggesting a trade-off between manoeuvrability and physiological diving capacity. By contrast, males were more successful in benthic dives, at least for Bird Island (BI) birds, possibly due to their larger size compared to females, allowing them to exploit habitat deeper and for longer durations. Both males at BI and both sexes at St Croix (SC) exhibited similar benthic success rates. This may be due to the comparatively shallower seafloor around SC, which could increase the likelihood of females capturing prey on benthic dives. Observation of camera data indicated individuals regularly foraged with a range of other predators including penguins and other seabirds, predatory fish (sharks and tuna) and whales. The presence of other seabirds increased individual foraging success, while predatory fish reduced it, indicating competitive exclusion by larger heterospecifics. This study highlights novel benthic foraging strategies in African penguins and suggests that individuals could buffer the effects of changes to prey availability in response to climate change. Furthermore, although group foraging was prevalent in the present study, its influence on foraging success depends largely on the type of heterospecifics present.
Sutton Grace, Pichegru Lorien, Botha Jonathan A, Kouzani Abbas Z, Adams Scott, Bost Charles A, Arnould John P Y
Accelerometer, Benthic, Bio-logging, Camera, Endangered, Group foraging, Penguin, Prey capture, Sex-specific foraging, South Africa