Dynamic fine-scale sea icescape shapes adult emperor penguin foraging habitat in east Antarctica

Sara Labrousse*, Alexander D. Fraser, Michael Sumner, Takeshi Tamura, David Pinaud, Barbara Wienecke, Roger Kirkwood, Yan Ropert-Coudert, Ryan Reisinger, Ian Jonsen, Rick Porter-Smith, Christophe Barbraud, Charles André Bost, Rubao Ji, Stéphanie Jenouvrier

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)
    3 Downloads (Pure)


    The emperor penguin, an iconic species threatened by projected sea ice loss in Antarctica, has long been considered to forage at the fast ice edge, presumably relying on large/yearly persistent polynyas as their main foraging habitat during the breeding season. Using newly developed fine-scale sea icescape data and historical penguin tracking data, this study for the first time suggests the importance of less recognized small openings, including cracks, flaw leads and ephemeral short-term polynyas, as foraging habitats for emperor penguins. The tracking data retrieved from 47 emperor penguins in two different colonies in East Antarctica suggest that those penguins spent 23% of their time in ephemeral polynyas and did not use the large/yearly persistent, well-studied polynyas, even if they occur much more regularly with predictable locations. These findings challenge our previous understanding of emperor penguin breeding habitats, highlighting the need for incorporating fine-scale seascape features when assessing the population persistence in a rapidly changing polar environment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)11206-11218
    Number of pages13
    JournalGeophysical Research Letters
    Issue number20
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Publisher 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • emperor penguin
    • fast ice
    • foraging ecology
    • iceberg
    • polynya
    • sea ice


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