High sea surface temperatures driven by a strengthening current reduce foraging success by penguins

Gemma Carroll*, Jason D. Everett, Robert Harcourt, David Slip, Ian Jonsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


The world's oceans are undergoing rapid, regionally specific warming. Strengthening western boundary currents play a role in this phenomenon, with sea surface temperatures (SST) in their paths rising faster than the global average. To understand how dynamic oceanography influences food availability in these ocean warming "hotspots", we use a novel prey capture signature derived from accelerometry to understand how the warm East Australian Current shapes foraging success by a meso-predator, the little penguin. This seabird feeds on low trophic level species that are sensitive to environmental change. We found that in 2012, prey capture success by penguins was high when SST was low relative to the long-term mean. In 2013 prey capture success was low, coincident with an unusually strong penetration of warm water. Overall there was an optimal temperature range for prey capture around 19-21 °C, with lower success at both lower and higher temperatures, mirroring published relationships between commercial sardine catch and SST. Spatially, higher SSTs corresponded to a lower probability of penguins using an area, and lower prey capture success. These links between high SST and reduced prey capture success by penguins suggest negative implications for future resource availability in a system dominated by a strengthening western boundary current.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22236
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2016

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