Approved Abstracts

The role of Antarctic penguins recycling trace metals in the Southern Ocean



Author(s): Sparaventi E; Rodríguez-Romero A; Barbosa A; Ramajo L; Tovar-Sánchez A;
Presenter: Erica Sparaventi

The Southern Ocean is known to be one of the most extensive High-Nutrient Low-Chlorophyll (HNLC) regions worldwide. In order to understand how biogeochemical cycles influence the primary production in the Southern Ocean, biological recycling is considered as an important mechanism that contributes to maintain high levels of trace metals in Antarctic surface waters. Recent studies demonstrated the contribution in terms of recycled trace metals derived by Antarctic organisms, such as krill (Euphausia superba) and whales (whose main food source is krill). Most of the research about penguins associated to metals has been focused in biomonitoring the environmental contamination of Antarctic continent. They have been identified as a suitable sentinel organism, and previous studies confirm that guano is an important route of metal elimination in penguins, thus representing a direct source of environmental contamination. However, due to the novelty of the subject and the scarcity of metals data on guano, the importance of penguins in the trace metal recycling is not yet fully understood.
This study aims to introduce and extent to the genus Pygoscelis, which comprise the Adélie (Pygoscelis adeliae), the Chinstrap (Pygoscelis antarcticus) and the Gentoo (Pygoscelis papua) penguin species, an important role in the biogeochemical cycles of trace metals in the Southern Ocean. For that, we have quantified and compared data on trace metal concentrations found in different penguin biotic matrices (e.g., body tissues, organs, feather and guano) from literature together with our analysis on the trace metal composition of guano samples from the three species of Pygoscelis penguins. We found higher concentrations of Cu (204±142), Fe (410±289), Mn (30±34) and Zn (210±90) (μg g-1 dry weight) in the guano samples, compared to the other biotic matrices, from all the penguin species studied. These results show that the guano is enriched with bioactive metals, probably linked to their feeding prevalently on krill. Antarctic penguins represent one of the most abundant animal in the Southern Ocean, with a wide distribution, and together with their life cycle linked to the sea and krill as principal food source, suggest that penguins can release significant amounts of essential trace metals through their excretion products, thus enhancing primary production.


Keywords: Penguins; Trace metals; Southern Ocean

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