Molecular Diet Analysis of Adélie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) in the Ross Sea Using Fecal DNA

Nazia Tabassum, Ji Hyun Lee, Soo Rin Lee, Jong U. Kim, Hyun Park, Hyun Woo Kim, Jeong Hoon Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The diet of Adélie penguins, Pygoscelis adeliae, is a useful indicator in understanding the ecological conditions of their habitats. The diets of Adélie penguins were studied using metabarcoding and quantitative PCR (qPCR) analyses of fecal DNA from seven habitats along the Ross Sea region. Using metabarcoding analysis with dual universal primers (18Sv9 and miniFish), the overall diet composition and detailed information about piscine prey were clearly elucidated. It was found that two krill species (Euphausia superba and Euphausia crystallorophias) and notothenioid fish were the most abundant in the diets of Adélie penguins. Among the notothenioid prey, Pleuragramma antarctica (56.50%) and Pagothenia borchgrevinki (18.21%) were the two most abundant species. qPCR analysis showed a significant geographic difference in the composition of main prey. Penguins inhabiting outbound parts of the Ross Sea (Capes Adare (CA) and Duke of York Island (DY)) mainly preyed on E. superba, without any significant changes in prey composition. By contrast, those inhabiting the inbound parts of the Ross Sea (Edmonson Point (EP) and Inexpressible Island (II)) preyed on E. crystallorophias and notothenioid fish rather than E. superba. Compared with the outbound habitats, prey compositions for penguins inhabiting the inbound regions were significantly different year to year, which was presumably due to the food availability based on the annual environmental and meteorological conditions of the coastal region along with the inbound parts of the Ross Sea.

Original languageEnglish
Article number182
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Feb

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Diet analysis
  • Metabarcoding
  • NGS
  • Pygoscelis adeliae
  • Ross Sea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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