In Brief

Magellanic Penguins Devour 2 Million Tons of Seafood Yearly

A braying Magellanic penguin from the colony at Punta Tombo, Argentina. (Image 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.), reported.

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Becky Oskin
Contributing Writer
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.