A braying Magellanic penguin from the colony at Punta Tombo, Argentina.
Credit: Graham Harris/Wildlife Conservation Society
South American Magellanic penguins gobble down 1.5 million tons of silverside fish, squid and small, oily fish such as sprat every year. If all of the world's 1.3 million Magellanic penguins are as voracious as their Patagonian counterparts, then the black-and-white birds may be bolting down 2 million tons of seafood every year, according to a study published Dec. 12, 2012, in the journal PLOS ONE. The study adds to increasing evidence that seabirds consume larger quantities of food than previously estimated, the authors report.
Wiggle loggers tracked diving penguins from four colonies in Argentina to determine how much prey they captured. Wiggles during dives indicate the number of prey nabbed by each penguin. The total haul was 87 percent more than the 820,000 tons of commercial catches for the same seafood species (sprat, squid, anchovy, etc.), LatinAmericanScience.org reported.