Super-surface Planktivores

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I'm not an ornithologist, but I played one for three months in Costa Rica (interesting bird research). Though I've moved from terra to aqua, I maintain an interest in happenings where the z-axis is positive, and in particular where it is small. Marine Ecology Progress Series published a theme section titled "Seabirds as indicators of marine ecosystems" (Volume 352).  In this blog entry, I'll going to chat about one of the articles from that section.

In Hot oceanography: planktivorous seabirds reaveal ecosystem responses to warming of the Bering Sea, Springer et al. looked at the diets of least auklets (Aethia pusilla) in the Pribilof Islands. Like some whales, these birds eat copepods! Upwards of 80% of their diet may be composed of Neocalanus spp. and Calanus marshallae. The former is a deep water species, and the latter is more often found in shelf waters. The authors examined the diet of birds on two of the Pribilof Islands - one in "shallow" shelf water, and the other closer to the "deep" basin water. The relative proportion of Neocalanus spp. to C.marshallae found in the birds is assumed to be representative of the availability of each copepod in the vicinity of each island. 

YanNetTow.jpgOne of the really neat things about this study is the methodology: that one can let the birds do the sampling. In the absence of an "indicator" such as the lesser auklet, we humans would need to hop on a boat and sample the water column with a net or with acoustic instrument(s). Finding indicator organisms is, in effect, biological remote sensing. Another aspect of this study that makes it interesting is it's location - tiny mountainous islands at high latitude. Look forward to a future post containing a list of super-surface planktivores.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Pendleton published on February 2, 2009 5:58 PM.

Computational Ecology was the previous entry in this blog.

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