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Penguins Take Fishing Trips With Their Buddies


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Penguins take fishing trips with their buddies

Penguins make bosom buddies and they like to team up with them when going on fishing expeditions.

Little penguins, the smallest penguin species, go on long fishing trips to feed their chicks. Like many other penguins they cross the beach in groups of five to 10 birds, as being in troops helps protect individuals from predators. The suggestion is that these groups fish cooperatively, in which case you might expect the birds to seek out good teammates rather than form groups at random.

To find out, researchers led by André Chiaradia of the Philip Island Nature Park in Victoria, Australia, recorded arrivals and departures of little penguins over four consecutive breeding seasons, identifying the birds by means of a microchip placed under their skin.

This showed that they did tend to team up with the same fishing partners, perhaps because it helps to buddy up with penguins that share knowledge of particular feeding sites, for instance. However, only middle-aged penguins did so, and then only when food was abundant and a large number of chicks had fledged that year.

In years when food was scarce the birds were less choosy, perhaps because they were fishing alone to avoid sharing scarce resources. Older and young penguins, both of which are likely to be less good fishers, were never picked to be part of a team.

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