Female-biased stranding in Magellanic penguins.


Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Aichi 464-8601, Japan. Electronic address: [Email]


Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) have been reported to become stranded along the coasts of northern Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil during the austral winter [1-3]. This location is more than a thousand kilometers distant from their northernmost breeding colony in northern Patagonia. Curiously, females typically outnumber males at stranding sites (approximately three females per male) [2]. To date, no conspicuous sex differences have been reported in their migratory movements [3], although records are lacking during the peak stranding season. Consequently, the reason(s) for the female-biased stranding remain unknown, despite the growing necessity for understanding their behavior outside the breeding season [3]. We recorded at-sea distributions of Magellanic penguins throughout the non-breeding period using animal-borne data loggers and found that females reached more northern areas than males and did not dive as deep during winter (Figure 1). Such sexual differences in spatial domains might be driven by mechanisms related to sexual size dimorphism, such as the avoidance of intraspecific competition for food resources [4], differences in thermal habitat preference [5] or differences in the ability to withstand the northward-flowing ocean circulation [6]. Individual penguins that winter in northern areas are likely to be at greater risk of natural [7] and anthropogenic threats [8], and probably more so in females, as more females than males tend to frequent areas closer to the sites where penguins strand. Our results highlight the importance of understanding the spatial domains of each sex throughout the annual cycle that are associated with different mortality risks.

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