Age variation in reproductive performance is well-documented but the mechanisms underlying this variation remain unclear. Foraging efficiency is likely to be a key source of demographic variation as it determines the amount of energy that can be invested in fitness-related activities. Evidence of age-related changes in the foraging efficiency of adult seabirds is scarce and inconsistent. We investigated the effects of age on the foraging efficiency of breeding Adélie penguins, a relatively short-lived seabird species, in order to gain a broader perspective on the processes driving variation in ageing rates. We found support for a positive effect of age, either linear or levelling off at old ages, on both our proxies for daily catch rate and catch per unit effort. Across all age classes, males were more performant foragers than females. We found no strong evidence for differing ageing patterns between sexes or individual quality levels, and no evidence for senescence. We infer that continuous individual improvement could be responsible for a larger amount of the variation in foraging efficiency with age at our study site, compared with selective disappearance of underperforming phenotypes. The different results reported by other studies highlight the need to conduct longitudinal studies across a range of species in different environments.
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