In the first study of its kind, scientists have tracked king penguins on their first year away from home.
They found that the juveniles explored new habitat and eventually learning to find food in the same way their parents did.
Most foraging ecology studies of marine vertebrates are limited to breeding adults although young penguins may be susceptible to increased mortality due to their inexperience.
The study, published in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Dr Klemens Pütz from Antarctic Research Trust and colleagues, used satellite telemetry to track 18 king penguins from two sites in the Southwest Atlantic for about 120 days in 2007.
The two sites differed with respect to climate and proximity to the Antarctic Polar Front, a key oceanographic feature generally thought to be important for king penguins to find food.
Scientists found that young penguins take large-scale movements when at sea for the first time, ranging from a maximum distance of about 600 km to 4,000 km and averaging about 45 km per day.
Juveniles from the Falkland Islands spent more time in comparatively shallow waters with low sea surface temperature, sea surface height and chlorophyll variability.
The authors suggest that in this species, juveniles eventually use similar habitat to find food as the adults, which may indicate that inexperienced king penguins develop their foraging skills progressively over time, irrespective of location.
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