How animals distribute themselves in space: energy landscapes of an Antarctic predator


Dr. Juan Francisco Masello
Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
Institut für Tierökologie und Spezielle Zoologie
AG Verhaltensökologie und Ökophysiologie

Project Description

The foraging efficiency of animals determines whether they will be able to raise healthy broods, maintain their own condition, avoid predators and ultimately increase their fitness. Foraging efficiency could also affect population dynamics, with increasing populations in places with minimized energetic costs and decreasing numbers in areas of increased foraging costs. Most studies of the foraging behaviour of animals have concentrated on the description of movements. However, the mechanisms underlying animal foraging behaviour remain mostly unexplained. Recent advances in animal movement tracking and data analyses have a great potential to fill this gap in our knowledge. With the use of accelerometers, features of the habitat and the way animals deal with variable conditions can be translated into energetic costs of movement, which, in turn, can be viewed as energy landscapes. I here propose to take advantage of the newly available technology and methods in order to reveal how variable foraging costs in different environments affect the performance of different population. I will use energy landscapes to study how an Antarctic predator has successfully adapted to recent environmental change. Using Gentoo penguins as a model species, I will study how foraging strategies differ between populations located in optimal (Antarctic Peninsula, increasing population) and suboptimal breeding sites (Falkland Islands, fluctuating populations). By comparing the use of energy landscapes, I will explore which conditions allow this species to maintain high levels of body condition and reproductive success and successfully expand in Antarctic sites. The results will also help to reveal how adapt to changing conditions, such as those expected under current climate change.

DFG Programme: Infrastructure Priority Programmes

Term from 2015 - 2019