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Journal Articles PLoS ONE Year : 2014

Antarctic climate change: extreme events disrupt plastic phenotypic response in Adélie penguins

Abstract

In the context of predicted alteration of sea ice cover and increased frequency of extreme events, it is especially timely to investigate plasticity within Antarctic species responding to a key environmental aspect of their ecology: sea ice variability. Using 13 years of longitudinal data, we investigated the effect of sea ice concentration (SIC) on the foraging efficiency of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) breeding in the Ross Sea. A 'natural experiment' brought by the exceptional presence of giant icebergs during 5 consecutive years provided unprecedented habitat variation for testing the effects of extreme events on the relationship between SIC and foraging efficiency in this sea-ice dependent species. Significant levels of phenotypic plasticity were evident in response to changes in SIC in normal environmental conditions. Maximum foraging efficiency occurred at relatively low SIC, peaking at 6.1% and decreasing with higher SIC. The 'natural experiment' uncoupled efficiency levels from SIC variations. Our study suggests that lower summer SIC than currently observed would benefit the foraging performance of Adélie penguins in their southernmost breeding area. Importantly, it also provides evidence that extreme climatic events can disrupt response plasticity in a wild seabird population. This questions the predictive power of relationships built on past observations, when not only the average climatic conditions are changing but the frequency of extreme climatic anomalies is also on the rise.
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hal-01586129 , version 1 (25-05-2021)

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Amélie Lescroel, Grant Ballard, David Grémillet, Matthieu Authier, David G. Ainley. Antarctic climate change: extreme events disrupt plastic phenotypic response in Adélie penguins. PLoS ONE, 2014, 9, pp.e85291. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0085291⟩. ⟨hal-01586129⟩
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