The Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) is a marine sentinel for the southern Atlantic Ocean that is a proxy of environmental quality. The presence of marine debris (macro-debris) in the stomach contents of emaciated juvenile penguins stranded from 21°S to 23°S was compared at different times (2000 and 2008), and the debris ingestion pathway was determined. The frequency of marine debris in the stomachs doubled in less than a decade, and flexible plastics remained the main ingested item over time (68–70%). The pelagic octopus, Argonauta nodosa, which inhabits the sea surface, was the most important prey species recovered in the stomach contents. The poor physical condition of the penguins that reach the northern migration limit (study area) reduces the diving capacity of the animals and increases their vulnerability to debris ingestion. Considering their preferred prey and physical condition, we conclude that the penguins likely ingested the marine debris in surface waters.
Ana Paula Madeira Di Beneditto, Salvatore Siciliano, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 25 September 2017, In Press