Ladies, forget young – middle age rocks … especially if you are a penguin!
According to a study published on the online open-access scientific journal PLoS One by a team of scientists from Australia and France, middle-aged female penguins were more successful finding food than young and old females.
The team was able to reconstruct penguins’ foraging trips by using state-of-the-art data loggers with acceleration and depth sensors mounted on the back of penguins. The data confirms, when it comes to finding food, middle-aged is best.
‘Middle-aged females spent less time under the water with less diving effort,’ says Dr Andre Chiaradia, penguin biologist at the Phillip Island Nature Parks. ‘While diving, they had better hunting tactics so they were more efficient at finding food for their offspring.’
Dr Chiaradia says, ‘middle-aged penguins still have the good physical condition of young birds but also the experience of older penguins. These factors seem to be acting together to make middle-aged penguins better at fishing.’
The study confirms other findings about Little Penguin’s breeding success on land and their ability to forage. These studies also found that on land, middle age was the best age for penguins to forage.
‘This information is especially relevant in years of low resource availability and probably influences the response of penguins to years when food is hard to find,’ says Dr Chiaradia, who says studies like these are also very useful in managing resources like the Phillip Island Nature Parks.
‘Information on individual quality can assist in management of marine resources by predicting the capacity of penguins at different ages to adapt to future environmental and climatic changes.’
It just goes to show, when it comes to hunting and efficiency, middle-age certainly does have its perks!