Increasing evidence suggests that penguins are sensitive to dimethyl sulphide (DMS), a scented airborne compound that a variety of marine animals use to find productive areas of the ocean where prey is likely to be found. Here we present data showing that king penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus are also sensitive to DMS. We deployed DMS on a lake near a king penguin colony at Ratmanoff beach in the Kerguelen archipelago. We also presented DMS to ‘sleeping’ adults on the beach. On the lake, penguins responded to the DMS deployments by swimming more, while on the beach, penguins twitched their heads and woke up more for the DMS than for the control presentations. Interestingly, penguins did not respond to cod liver oil deployments on the lake; mirroring at-sea studies of other penguins. Although at-sea studies are needed to confirm that king penguins use DMS as a surface cue that informs them of productivity under the water, this study is an important first step in understanding how these birds locate prey over significant distances.
Cunningham, Gregory B.; Leclaire, Sarah; Toscani, Camille; and Bonadonna, Francesco (2017). "Responses of king penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus adults and chicks to two food-related odours." Journal of Avian Biology 48.2, 235-242.
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