Comparison of color and body condition between early and late breeding King Penguins

F. Stephen Dobson, Paul M. Nolan, Marion Nicolaus, Catherine Bajzak, Anne-Sophie Coquel, Pierre Jouventin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Early breeding is associated with greater reproductive success in many species. In king penguins, Aptenodytes patagonicus, laying extends for 6 mo. Early breeders may fledge a single chick at best, but late breeders virtually never fledge a chick. For early and late breeders, we compared colored ornaments known to be important in mate choice: yellow-orange feathers of the breast and auricular areas, and an ultraviolet and yellow-orange beak spot. Our purpose was to discern differences between males and females in this highly sexually monomorphic species, as well as to discern whether colored ornaments are more important for the more successful early breeders (aspects of color were hue, chroma, and brightness). For this, we weighed and measured 130 penguins. Early males had greater reflectance of ultraviolet color from the beak spot than did early females and late breeders of both sexes, and the early males were heavier and in better condition than late breeding males or females. Late breeding females were the yellowest in breast hue, a trait that has been linked to immunocompetence. Within pairs, males and females were significantly correlated in body mass, but only early in the breeding season. We concluded that early in the breeding season when reproductive success was greatest, potential mates were not only more similar in body mass, but also that females may have chosen males that had brighter beak spots and were in better body condition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)925-933
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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