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Cristofari, R, Bertorelle G, Ancel A, Benazzo A, Lemaho Y, Ponganis PJ, Stenseth NC, Trathan PN, Whittington JD, Zanetti E, Zitterbart DP, Le Bohec C, Trucchi E.  2016.  Full circumpolar migration ensures evolutionary unity in the Emperor penguin. Nature Communications. 7   10.1038/ncomms11842   AbstractWebsite

Defining reliable demographic models is essential to understand the threats of ongoing environmental change. Yet, in the most remote and threatened areas, models are often based on the survey of a single population, assuming stationarity and independence in population responses. This is the case for the Emperor penguin Aptenodytes forsteri, a flagship Antarctic species that may be at high risk continent-wide before 2100. Here, using genome-wide data from the whole Antarctic continent, we reveal that this top-predator is organized as one single global population with a shared demography since the late Quaternary. We refute the view of the local population as a relevant demographic unit, and highlight that (i) robust extinction risk estimations are only possible by including dispersal rates and (ii) colony-scaled population size is rather indicative of local stochastic events, whereas the species' response to global environmental change is likely to follow a shared evolutionary trajectory.

Watanabe, S, Sato K, Ponganis PJ.  2012.  Activity time budget during foraging trips of emperor penguins. Plos One. 7   10.1371/journal.pone.0050357   AbstractWebsite

We developed an automated method using depth and one axis of body acceleration data recorded by animal-borne data loggers to identify activities of penguins over long-term deployments. Using this technique, we evaluated the activity time budget of emperor penguins (n = 10) both in water and on sea ice during foraging trips in chick-rearing season. During the foraging trips, emperor penguins alternated dive bouts (4.8 +/- 4.5 h) and rest periods on sea ice (2.5 +/- 2.3 h). After recorder deployment and release near the colony, the birds spent 17.9 +/- 8.4% of their time traveling until they reached the ice edge. Once at the ice edge, they stayed there more than 4 hours before the first dive. After the first dive, the mean proportions of time spent on the ice and in water were 30.8 +/- 7.4% and 69.2 +/- 7.4%, respectively. When in the water, they spent 67.9 +/- 3.1% of time making dives deeper than 5 m. Dive activity had no typical diurnal pattern for individual birds. While in the water between dives, the birds had short resting periods (1.2 +/- 1.7 min) and periods of swimming at depths shallower than 5 m (0.25 +/- 0.38 min). When the birds were on the ice, they primarily used time for resting (90.3 +/- 4.1% of time) and spent only 9.7 +/- 4.1% of time traveling. Thus, it appears that, during foraging trips at sea, emperor penguins traveled during dives >5 m depth, and that sea ice was primarily used for resting. Sea ice probably provides refuge from natural predators such as leopard seals. We also suggest that 24 hours of sunlight and the cycling of dive bouts with short rest periods on sea ice allow emperor penguins to dive continuously throughout the day during foraging trips to sea.

Barber-Meyer, SM, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  2007.  Estimating the relative abundance of emperor penguins at inaccessible colonies using satellite imagery. Polar Biology. 30:1565-1570.   10.1007/s00300-007-0317-8   AbstractWebsite

Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) populations are useful environmental indicators due to the bird's extreme reliance on sea ice. We used remote sensing technology to estimate relative adult bird abundance at two inaccessible emperor penguin colonies in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. We performed supervised classification of 12 panchromatic satellite images of the seven known Ross Sea colonies. We used regression to predict adult bird counts at the inaccessible colonies by relating the number of pixels classified as "penguin" in the satellite images of the accessible colonies to corresponding known adult bird counts from aerial photographs or ground counts. While our analysis was hampered by excessive guano and shadows, we used satellite imagery to differentiate between relatively small (< 3,000 adult birds) and larger colonies (> 5,000 adult birds). Remote sensing technology is logistically less intense and less costly than aerial or ground censuses when the objective is to document penguin presence and/or large emperor penguin population changes (e.g., catastrophic changes). Improvements expected soon in the resolution of the satellite images should allow for more accurate abundance estimates.