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Tidal front affects the size of prey used by a top marine predator, the short-tailed shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris)

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Oceanographic features are known to influence the distribution of marine predators by affecting the abundance and distribution of their prey. We tested the hypothesis that oceanographic features also affect predator distribution by enhancing the profitability of small-sized prey. During July and August 1999, short-tailed shearwaters feeding in Akutan Pass, Alaska (Aleutian Islands) fed upon small (11.6 ± 0.2 mm) euphausiids present in high density near the sea surface. Conductivity–temperature–depth (CTD) casts, hydroacoustic surveys, and net tows revealed that high densities of small euphausiids were associated with a tidal front on the north side of Akutan Pass. At most sites elsewhere in the Bering Sea, away from tidal fronts, shearwaters selected larger (14.2–20.1 mm) euphausiids, even when small euphausiids were present. This study provides evidence that, by promoting high densities of easily accessible prey, oceanographic features can broaden the range of prey sizes taken by marine predators.

Keywords: Akutan Pass; Aleutian Islands; Bering Sea; foraging; oceanography; prey selection; seabirds; short-tailed shearwater; zooplankton

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7220, USA 2: NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, 7600 Sandpoint Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115-6349, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2005


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