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Assessing the fish prey of seabirds

Posted by: Fiona McFarlane

January 10, 2018

Two albatross with wings extended sitting on the ocean surface.
Studies on the diet of threatened Albatross.

Simon Jarman and colleagues have published a paper in Frontiers in Marine Science describing novel DNA meta-barcoding approaches to tracking the interactions between fishing fleets and iconic seabirds like albatrosses.

Almost all of the world’s fisheries overlap spatially and temporally with foraging seabirds, with impacts that range from food supplementation (through scavenging behind vessels), to resource competition and incidental mortality.

A kneeling man wearing yellow rain gear with a mob of penguins nearby.
Simon Jarman on Macquarie Island.

Seabird dietary studies provide information on prey diversity and often identify species that are also caught in fisheries, providing evidence of linkages which can be used to improve ecosystem based management of fisheries. However, species identification of fish can be difficult with conventional dietary techniques.

In this paper, the researchers use DNA metabarcoding of black-browed albatross scats to investigate their fish prey during the breeding season at six sites across their range, over two seasons.

Read the paper here.