Pen­guins dine on jel­lies, study finds

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NEWS -

Ge­lati­nous sea an­i­mals, like jel­ly­fish and ctenophores, have tra­di­tion­ally been re­garded as “dead ends” in food webs. Be­cause they are so low in calo­ries (jel­ly­fish are about 95 per­cent water), it was thought that most preda­tors would not ben­e­fit from eat­ing them. But a re­cent study has iden­ti­fied a new, un­ex­pected jelly-eater: pen­guins.

Like other warm-blooded an­i­mals, pen­guins have high caloric de­mands and typ­i­cally seek en­ergy-dense foods, like fish and krill. In a pa­per pub­lished in Fron­tiers in Ecol­ogy and the En­vi­ron­ment, how­ever, an in­ter­na­tional con­sor­tium of sci­en­tists has re­ported that an as­sort­ment of pen­guin species fre­quently at­tack jel­lies as food, a be­hav­ior that had not been doc­u­mented be­fore.

In the new study, led by Jean-Bap­tiste Thiebot, a post­doc­toral re­searcher at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Po­lar Re­search in Ja­pan, teams from five coun­tries mon­i­tored four pen­guin species: Mag­el­lanic pen­guins in Ar­gentina, Adelie pen­guins in Antarc­tica, lit­tle pen­guins in Aus­tralia and yel­low-eyed pen­guins in New Zealand.

Strap­ping minia­ture video cam­eras to the pen­guins, the sci­en­tists doc­u­mented nearly 200 strikes on jel­lies at seven sites.

“We were amazed to re­al­ize that all teams ob­served the same phe­nom­e­non,” Thiebot said.

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