"Critter-cam" shows Black-browed Albatrosses follow Killer Whales

Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey, Japan's National Institute of Polar Research and Hokkaido University have published results from the first deployments of a combined animal-borne camera and depth data logger on free-ranging Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris.  The study took place at a South Atlantic breeding colony of Black-browed Albatrosses in January 2009, as part of a UK-Japan International Polar Year project.

Four birds had tiny (82 g) cameras developed by the Japanese National Institute for Polar Research taped to their back feathers. More than 28 000 pictures were obtained as the albatrosses undertook foraging trips to feed their chicks. 

The images obtained show albatrosses actively following a Killer Whale Orcinus orca, possibly to feed on food scraps. The camera images, together with the depth profiles, showed that the birds dived only occasionally, but that they actively dived when other birds or the Killer Whale were present.  This association with diving predators or other birds may partially explain how albatrosses find their prey more efficiently in an apparently featureless ocean, with a minimal requirement for energetically costly diving activities.

The study, by Kentaro Sakamoto, Akinori Takahashi, Takashi Iwata and Philip Trathan, appears in the open-access journal PLoS ONE at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007322.

See also http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/revealed-the-albatrosss-unlikely-dinner-date-1798724.html.

News from John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 November 2009

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

About ACAP

ACAP Secretariat

119 Macquarie St
Hobart TAS 7000

Email: secretariat@acap.aq
Tel: +61 3 6165 6674