CIE Spotlight: Benefits of Group Foraging Depend on Prey Type in a Small Marine Predator, the Little Penguin

John A.

John A.

Title: Benefits of Group Foraging Depend on Prey Type in a Small Marine Predator, the Little Penguin

Authors: Grace J. Sutton, Andrew J. Hoskins, John P. Y. Arnould

Source: PLOS ONE, Dec 16, 2015

Brief summary of the paper: Group foraging provides predators with advantages in over-powering prey larger than themselves or in aggregating small prey for efficient exploitation.

For group-living predatory species, cooperative hunting strategies provide inclusive fitness benefits. However, for colonial-breeding predators, the benefit pay-offs of group foraging are less clear due to the potential for intra-specific competition.

We used animal-borne cameras to determine the prey types, hunting strategies, and success of little penguins (Eudyptula minor), a small, colonial breeding air-breathing marine predator that has recently been shown to display extensive at-sea foraging associations with conspecifics.

Regardless of prey type, little penguins had a higher probability of associating with conspecifics when hunting prey that were aggregated than when prey were solitary. In addition, success was greater when individuals hunted schooling rather than solitary prey. Surprisingly, however, success on schooling prey was similar or greater when individuals hunted on their own than when with conspecifics.

These findings suggest individuals may be trading-off the energetic gains of solitary hunting for an increased probability of detecting prey within a spatially and temporally variable prey field by associating with conspecifics.