Foraging penguins are real krill killers, underwater cameras show

Foraging penguins are real krill killers, underwater cameras show
An Adelie penguin exits the water in Paulette Bay, Antarctica. A new study outfitting Adelie penguins with cameras and accelerometers reveals their hunting prowess.
(Sheldon Shapiro)

Wild Adelie penguins have killer appetites – and they rarely miss a target. Neither fish nor krill can escape the Antarctic seabirds, according to scientists who outfitted them with cameras to spy on their feeding habits.

Understanding an animal’s feeding patterns can be crucial to gauging the population’s health and survival. The study, published this week in PNAS, provides a look at the foraging patterns of these penguins and provides future researchers with a way to study other penguins’ mysterious eating habits.


The scientists equipped 15 Adelie penguins with accelerometers and cameras (though some of them malfunctioned along the way). They watched the seabirds snatch prey in their beaks underwater while chasing krill and a fish called Pagothenia borchgrevinki. Most of the penguins had two accelerometers, one on the back and one on the head, which would allow the scientists to measure when a penguin’s head darted out to catch a bite.

They found that penguins made fast work of their meals – they could gobble 244 krill or 33 fish in under an hour and a half – and in swarms they were incredibly quick, capturing two krill per second.


And in all the time spent watching the animals chow down, the authors said, not once did a penguin miss its target. 

“No unsuccessful attempt of prey capture was observed in any individual birds,” they wrote.

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