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UDaily: UD study seeks to better understand foraging competition between Adelie, gentoo penguins

UDaily: UD study seeks to better understand foraging competition between Adelie, gentoo penguins

For hundreds of years, Adélie penguins have been breeding in the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), which has recently become one of the most rapidly warming areas on Earth. At Palmer Station, a U.S. research base located along the WAP, scientists have been monitoring Adélie penguin population declines for decades. There were 15,000 breeding pairs of Adélie penguins in 1975; but today only a few thousand pairs are left.

Now, in a study reported in the Nature publication Scientific Reports, University of Delaware oceanographers consider whether Adélie penguins and gentoo penguins — newcomers to the Palmer Station region over the last two decades — may be competing for the same food resources and whether this might exacerbate the Adélie population decline.

An ecological theory called the competitive exclusion principle, also known as Gause’s law, states that “two species that compete for the exact same resources cannot stably coexist.”

“So we set out to explore whether the Adélies and gentoos were eating out of the same lunch box, so to speak,” explained Megan Cimino, a doctoral candidate in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and the paper’s lead author.