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Going with the floe: Sea-ice movement affects distance and destination during Adélie penguin winter movements

October 26, 2023

Seasonal migration, driven by shifts in annual climate cycles and resources, is a key part of the life history and ecology of species across taxonomic groups. By influencing the amount of energy needed to move, external forces such as wind and ocean currents are often key drivers of migratory pathways exposing individuals to varying resources, environmental conditions, and competition pressures impacting individual fitness and population dynamics. Although wildlife movements in connection with wind and ocean currents are relatively well understood, movements within sea-ice fields have been much less studied, despite sea ice being an integral part of polar ecology. Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica, currently exist at the southernmost edge of their range and undergo the longest (~12,000 km) winter migration known for the species. Within and north of the Ross Sea, the Ross Gyre drives ocean circulation and the large-scale movement of sea ice. We used remotely sensed sea-ice movement data together with geolocation-based penguin movement data to test the hypothesis that penguins use gyre-driven sea-ice movement to aid their migration. We found that penguins traveled greater distances when their movement vectors were aligned with those of sea ice (i.e., ice support) and the amount of ice support received depended on which route a penguin took. We also found that birds that took an eastern route traveled significantly further north in two of the 3 years we examined, coinciding with higher velocities of sea ice in those years. We compare our findings to patterns observed in migrating species that utilize air or water currents for their travel and with other studies showing the importance of ocean/sea-ice circulation patterns to wildlife movement and life history patterns within the Ross Sea. Changes in sea ice may have consequences not only for energy expenditure but, by altering migration and movement pathways, to the ecological interactions that exist in this region.

Publication Year 2024
Title Going with the floe: Sea-ice movement affects distance and destination during Adélie penguin winter movements
DOI 10.1002/ecy.4196
Authors Dennis Jongsomjit, Amelie Lescroël, Annie Schmidt, Simeon Lisovski, David G. Ainley, Ellen Hines, Megan Elrod, Katie Dugger, Grant Ballard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology
Index ID 70255039
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle