Student Co-author

Pomona Undergraduate

Document Type



Biology (Pomona), Mathematics (Pomona)

Publication Date



Little auk, Alle alle, Calanus, Climate change, East Greenland Current, Sørkapp Current, West Spitsbergen Current, Time-depth recorder, Dovekie


The goal of this study was to assess how diverse oceanographic conditions and prey communities affect the foraging behavior of little auks Alle alle. The Greenland Sea is characterized by 3 distinct water masses: (1) the East Greenland Current (EGC), which carries Arctic waters southward; (2) the Sørkapp Current (SC), which originates in the Arctic Ocean but flows north along the west coast of Spitsbergen; and (3) the West Spitsbergen Current (WSC), which carries warm Atlantic-derived water north. Each of these 3 water masses is characterized by a distinct mesozooplankton community. Little auks breeding adjacent to the EGC have access to large, lipid-rich Calanus copepods, whereas those adjacent to the SC have medium sized prey, while those near the WSC are limited to even smaller, less profitable prey. We used time−depth recorders to compare the time allocation and diving behavior of little auks adjacent to each of these 3 water masses. We predicted that birds in the EGC would not have to forage as intensively as those in the SC or WSC. We found that little auks foraging in the EGC spent less time at sea, spent less time flying, dived less often, made fewer long, deep dives, and made fewer V-shaped searching dives. This indicates that the EGC provides a more favorable foraging environment than do the warmer water masses to the east. Comparing the foraging behavior of little auk populations confined to Arctic versus Atlantic-influenced waters can provide insight into the potential impacts of future warming in the Greenland Sea.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.