Circulating nutrient concentrations in free-ranging Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) in Punta San Juan, Peru

Paulo Colchao, Michael J. Adkesson, Matthew C. Allender, Andrea J. Fascetti, Marco Cardeña, Susana Cárdenas-Alayza, Ellen S. Dierenfeld, Sharon L. Deem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Free-ranging Humboldt penguin (HP, Spheniscus humboldti) populations are under pressure from resource competition with industrial fisheries, habitat loss, and El Niño Southern Oscillation events. Foraging patterns for this top marine predator change during periods of aberrant oceanographic conditions and scarce fish stock numbers. These radical dietary fluctuations can lead to poor fertility, early embryonic death, poor hatchability, suppressed immune function, high chick mortality, and illness. To understand the variability of nutrient status in reproductive seasons, we measured select circulating nutrient concentrations (fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and carotenoids, fatty acids, amino acids, minerals, and electrolytes) of 105 HP at Punta San Juan, Peru during the first reproductive seasons of 2007 and 2008. We determined significant differences in nutrient status between sexes, years of sampling, and reproductive stages. Males (4.5 ± 0.38 kg) weighed more than females (4.0 ± 0.29 kg) and exhibited higher concentrations of vitamin A (0.71 ± 0.11 vs. 0.61 ± 0.12 µg/ml) and docosahexaenoic acid (6.70 ± 1.61 vs. 5.65 ± 1.59%). Males also displayed lower concentrations of β-carotene (0.01 ± 0.01 vs. 0.012 ± 0.001 µg/ml) and phosphorus (3.43 ± 0.83 vs. 4.40 ± 1.66 mg/dl). Comparison between the 2 years showed most circulating amino acid concentrations were higher in 2007. Significant differences in circulating amino acids and vitamins were also noted between different reproductive stages. These results demonstrate concentrations of nutrients can vary due to the physiological state of the animal, as well as the overall dynamics of their marine ecosystem habitat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-256
Number of pages11
JournalZoo Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • amino acid
  • electrolytes
  • fat-soluble vitamin
  • fatty acid
  • minerals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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