Data from: Group foraging increases foraging efficiency in a piscivorous diver, the African penguin
McInnes, Alistair M. et al. (2017), Data from: Group foraging increases foraging efficiency in a piscivorous diver, the African penguin, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.3j2q3
Marine piscivores have evolved a variety of morphological and behavioural adaptations, including group foraging, to optimize foraging efficiency when targeting shoaling fish. For penguins that are known to associate at sea and feed on these prey resources, there is nonetheless a lack of empirical evidence to support improved foraging efficiency when foraging with conspecifics. We examined the hunting strategies and foraging performance of breeding African penguins equipped with animal-borne video recorders. Individuals pursued both solitary as well as schooling pelagic fish, and demonstrated independent as well as group foraging behaviour. The most profitable foraging involved herding of fish schools upwards during the ascent phase of a dive where most catches constituted depolarized fish. Catch-per-unit-effort was significantly improved when targeting fish schools as opposed to single fish, especially when foraging in groups. In contrast to more generalist penguin species, African penguins appear to have evolved specialist hunting strategies closely linked to their primary reliance on schooling pelagic fish. The specialist nature of the observed hunting strategies further limits the survival potential of this species if Allee effects reduce group size-related foraging efficiency. This is likely to be exacerbated by diminishing fish stocks due to resource competition and environmental change.