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King-size fast food for Antarctic fur seals

Abstract

The study of scats of adult male Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella (AFS) revealed occasional frequent capture of penguins. Although AFS adult males have been occasionally reported to kill king penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus at the shore, here we report the first observations of at-sea predation by AFS on adult king penguins in the Crozet archipelago, southern Indian Ocean. During our 20 days survey, we observed 17 penguins attacked and either severely injured or killed and consumed. Only AFS adult males were seen catching king penguins successfully. Some adult females and sub-adults also attempted to catch penguins, either at sea or in land, and so did subantarctic fur seals Arctocephalus tropicalis individuals. Our results confirm the ability of fur seals to catch and predate large seabirds, even at sea.

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Acknowledgments

This study was financially and logistically supported by the French Polar Institute (IPEV-Pr. 109 H Weimerskirch & Pr. 394 C-A Bost), the National Agency for Research (program GLIDES) and the Prince Albert II de Monaco Foundation. We thank C Barbraud, C Bost, M Bester, C Guinet, GJG Hofmeyr, P Inchausti, RJ Kirkwood, and two anonymous referees for useful comments on the manuscript. Thanks to Aurélien Prudor, Martine, Félicia and Anne for their help with this offensive fieldwork.

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Correspondence to Karine Delord.

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Charbonnier, Y., Delord, K. & Thiebot, J. King-size fast food for Antarctic fur seals. Polar Biol 33, 721–724 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-009-0753-8

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Keywords

  • Predation
  • Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus gazella
  • King penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus
  • Direct observation
  • Aquatic capture