Richard A. Phillips

Richard A. Phillips
British Antarctic Survey | BAS · Ecosystems Programme

BSc (Hons.), PhD

About

468
Publications
126,337
Reads
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18,527
Citations
Additional affiliations
October 2000 - present
British Antarctic Survey
Position
  • Seabird Ecologist

Publications

Publications (468)
Article
Mercury is a pervasive environmental contaminant that can negatively impact seabirds. Here, we measure total mercury (THg) concentrations in red blood cells (RBCs) from breeding brown skuas (Stercorarius antarcticus) (n = 49) at Esperanza/Hope Bay, Antarctic Peninsula. The aims of this study were to: (i) analyse RBCs THg concentrations in relation...
Article
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Penguins lost the ability to fly more than 60 million years ago, subsequently evolving a hyper-specialized marine body plan. Within the framework of a genome-scale, fossil-inclusive phylogeny, we identify key geological events that shaped penguin diversification and genomic signatures consistent with widespread refugia/recolonization during major c...
Article
1. Timing of breeding, an important driver of fitness in many populations, is widely studied in the context of global change, yet despite considerable efforts to identify environmental drivers of seabird nesting phenology, for most populations we lack evidence of strong drivers. Here we adopt an alternative approach, examining the degree to which d...
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Even in areas as remote as the Southern Ocean, marine organisms are exposed to contaminants that arrive through long-range atmospheric transport, such as mercury (Hg), a highly toxic metal. In previous studies in the Southern Ocean, inter-specific differences in Hg contamination in seabirds was generally related to their distribution and trophic po...
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Few studies have assessed the influence of data quality on the predicted probability of occurrence and preferred habitat of marine predators. We compared results from four species distribution models (SDMs) for four southern-hemisphere albatross species, Buller’s (Thalassarche bulleri), Campbell (T. impavida), grey-headed (T. chrysostoma), and whit...
Article
Optimal selection of foraging habitats is key to survival, but it remains unclear how naïve individuals are able to locate patchily‐distributed resources and maximize energy gain in completely new environments. In most animals, juveniles disperse unaccompanied by their parents, and hence their movements are likely guided, at least at fine scales, b...
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Birds exhibit wide variation in their use of aquatic environments, on a spectrum from entirely terrestrial, through amphibious, to highly aquatic. Although there are limited empirical data on hearing sensitivity of birds underwater, mounting evidence indicates that diving birds detect and respond to sound underwater, suggesting that some modificati...
Article
Antarctic sea ice is a critical component of the climate system affecting a range of physical and biogeochemical feedbacks and supporting unique ecosystems. During the last glacial stage, Antarctic sea ice was more extensive than today, but uncertainties in geological (marine sediments), glaciological (ice core), and climate model reconstructions o...
Article
Understanding how natural populations respond to climatic shifts is a fundamental goal of biological research in a fast‐changing world. The Southern Ocean represents a fascinating system for assessing large‐scale climate‐driven biological change, as it contains extremely isolated island groups within a predominantly westerly, circumpolar wind and c...
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Morphological variation in biological structures may be driven by genetic and environmental factors, such as inter-and intraspecific competition for resources. In seabirds, although the bill is also involved in vocalization, olfaction, sexual selection and defence, the main drivers of high morphological plasticity in bill size and shape appear to r...
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Advances in biologging techniques and the availability of high‐resolution fisheries data have improved our ability to understand the interactions between seabirds and fisheries and to evaluate mortality risk due to bycatch. However, it remains unclear whether movement patterns and behaviour differ between birds foraging naturally or scavenging behi...
Article
Reproduction, and parental care in particular, are among the most energy-demanding activities within the annual cycle of adult birds. Parents that cannot meet the metabolic demands and other physiological costs of raising offspring may opt to abandon chicks in favour of self-maintenance and future reproduction. Recent work examining reproductive tr...
Article
Antarctic marine ecosystems are often considered to be pristine environments, yet wildlife in the polar regions may still be exposed to high levels of environmental contaminants. Here, we measured total mercury (THg) concentrations in blood samples from adult brown skuas Stercorarius antarcticus lonnbergi (n = 82) from three breeding colonies south...
Article
Until the last decade, gentoo penguins were usually split into two subspecies, northern gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua papua) breeding in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and other subantarctic islands and southern gentoo penguins (P. papua ellsworthi) breeding in the South Sandwich, South Orkney and South Shetland islands, and Antarctic Pen...
Article
Foraging site selection and site fidelity can have implications for many ecological processes. The degree of site fidelity differs greatly not just between species but also within populations. Some of this variation may be explained by a win-stay–lose-shift (WSLS) strategy, where an individual returns to its most recent foraging area only if the pr...
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Seabirds are amongst the most mobile of all animal species and spend large amounts of their lives at sea. They cross vast areas of ocean that appear superficially featureless, and our understanding of the mechanisms that they use for navigation remains incomplete, especially in terms of available cues. In particular, several large-scale navigationa...
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Every year, billions of birds undertake extensive migrations between breeding and non-breeding areas, facing challenges that require behavioural adjustments, particularly to flight timing and duration. Such adjustments in daily activity patterns and the influence of extrinsic factors (e.g., environmental conditions, moonlight) have received much mo...
Preprint
Full-text available
Antarctic sea ice is a critical component of the climate system, affecting a range of physical and biogeochemical feedbacks, and supporting unique ecosystems. During the last glacial stage, Antarctic sea ice was more extensive than today, but uncertainties in geological (marine sediments), glaciological (ice core), and climate model reconstructions...
Article
Full-text available
Identifying important sites for biodiversity is vital for conservation and management. However, there is a lack of accessible, easily‐applied tools that enable practitioners to delineate important sites for highly mobile species using established criteria. We introduce the R package ‘track2KBA’, a tool to identify important sites at the population...
Article
Seabird mortality in fisheries is a global problem and a major driver of the continued decline of many seabird populations. Unless appropriate mitigation is in place, longline fishing can cause high levels of seabird mortality. Here we describe the development and implementation of seabird mitigation measures in the Patagonian toothfish Dissostichu...
Article
Fisheries bycatch is a major threat to marine megafauna such as seabirds. Population monitoring has revealed low survival of juvenile seabirds over recent decades, potentially because naïve individuals are more susceptible to bycatch than adults. However, major gaps remain in our knowledge of behavior and interaction of juveniles with fisheries. He...
Article
• The use of miniaturized electronic tracking devices has illuminated our understanding of seabird distributions and habitat use, and how anthropogenic threats interact with seabirds in both space and time. To determine the year-round distribution of adult Campbell albatross (Thalassarche impavida), a single-island endemic, breeding only at Campbel...
Article
Ocean circulation connects geographically distinct ecosystems across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales via exchanges of physical and biogeochemical properties. Remote oceanographic processes can be especially important for ecosystems in the Southern Ocean, where the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transports properties across ocean ba...
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Southern Ocean ecosystems are globally important. Processes in the Antarctic atmosphere, cryosphere, and the Southern Ocean directly influence global atmospheric and oceanic systems. Southern Ocean biogeochemistry has also been shown to have global importance. In contrast, ocean ecological processes are often seen as largely separate from the rest...
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Species breeding at high latitudes face a significant challenge of surviving the winter. Such conditions are particularly severe for diurnal marine endotherms such as seabirds. A critical question is therefore what behavioural strategies such species adopt to maximise survival probability. We tested 3 hypotheses: (1) they migrate to lower latitudes...
Article
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The conservation of migratory marine species, including pelagic seabirds, is challenging because their movements span vast distances frequently beyond national jurisdictions. Here, we aim to identify important aggregations of seabirds in the North Atlantic to inform ongoing regional conservation efforts. Using tracking, phenology, and population da...
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1. Many seabirds dive to forage, and the ability to use this hunting technique varies according to such factors as morphology, physiology, prey availability, and ambient light levels. Proficient divers are more able to seize sinking baits deployed by longline fishing vessels and may return them to the surface, increasing exposure of other species....
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Migratory marine species cross political borders and enter the high seas, where the lack of an effective global management framework for biodiversity leaves them vulnerable to threats. Here, we combine 10,108 tracks from 5775 individual birds at 87 sites with data on breeding population sizes to estimate the relative year-round importance of nation...
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Northern Macronectes halli and southern giant petrels M. giganteus are opportunistic predators and the dominant avian scavengers in sub-Antarctic and Antarctic ecosystems. At South Georgia, there are globally important breeding populations of both species; however, no detailed diet study has been carried out at this site for > 35 years. Here, we an...
Article
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Diving is an ecologically important behaviour that provides air-breathing predators with opportunities to capture prey, but that also increases their exposure to incidental mortality (bycatch) in commercial fisheries. In this study, we characterised the diving behaviour of 26 individuals of three species, the black-browed albatross Thalassarche mel...
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Background Inertial measurement units (IMUs) with high-resolution sensors such as accelerometers are now used extensively to study fine-scale behavior in a wide range of marine and terrestrial animals. Robust and practical methods are required for the computationally-demanding analysis of the resulting large datasets, particularly for automating cl...
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Climate change, fisheries and invasive species represent three pervasive threats to seabirds, globally. Understanding the relative influence and compounding nature of marine and terrestrial threats on the demography of seabird communities is vital for evidence-based conservation. Using 20 years of capture-mark-recapture data from four sympatric spe...
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The wandering albatross, Diomedea exulans, is a globally threatened species breeding at a number of sites within the Southern Ocean. Across the South Georgia archipelago, there are differences in population trends even at closely located colonies. Between 1999 and 2018 the largest colony, at Bird Island, declined at 3.01% per annum, while in the Ba...
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Research into the patterns and drivers of juvenile migration is important for understanding the development of individual migration strategies. Although several recent studies have tracked adult large gulls throughout the annual cycle, the movements of juveniles remain poorly understood. We fitted Global Positioning System (GPS) devices that transm...
Article
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Mercury (Hg) is an environmental contaminant which, at high concentrations, can negatively influence avian physiology and demography. Albatrosses (Diomedeidae) have higher Hg burdens than all other avian families. Here, we measure total Hg (THg) concentrations of body feathers from adult grey-headed albatrosses ( Thalassarche chrysostoma ) at South...
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The massive number of seabirds (penguins and procellariiformes) and marine mammals (cetaceans and pinnipeds) – referred to here as top predators – is one of the most iconic components of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean. They play an important role as highly mobile consumers, structuring and connecting pelagic marine food webs and are widely studie...
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1. As temperatures rise, timing of reproduction is changing at different rates across trophic levels, potentially resulting in asynchrony between consumers and their resources. The match-mismatch hypothesis (MMH) suggests that trophic asyn-chrony will have negative impacts on average productivity of consumers. It is also thought to lead to selectio...
Article
Young birds in cold environments face a range of age-specific thermal challenges. Studying the thermal biology of young birds throughout ontogeny may further our understanding of how such challenges are met. We investigated how age and environmental parameters influenced surface temperature gradients across various body regions of wandering albatro...
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Aim Determining the drivers of movement of different life‐history stages is crucial for understanding age‐related changes in survival rates and, for marine top predators, the link between fisheries overlap and incidental mortality (bycatch), which is driving population declines in many taxa. Here, we combine individual tracking data and a movement...
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Long-term studies of pelagic nekton in the Southern ocean and their responses to ongoing environmental change are rare. Using stable isotope ratios measured in squid beaks recovered from diet samples of wandering albatrosses Diomedea exulans, we assessed decadal variation (from 1976 to 2016) in the habitat (δ 13C) and trophic level (δ 15N) of five...
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The non‐breeding period is critical for restoration of body condition and self‐maintenance in albatrosses, yet detailed information on diet and distribution during this stage of the annual cycle is lacking for many species. Here, we use stable isotope values of body feathers (δ13C, δ15N) to infer habitat use and trophic level of non‐breeding adult...
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Fisheries bycatch is one of the biggest threats to seabird populations. Managers need to identify where and when bycatch occurs and ensure effective action. In 1999, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released the International Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (IPOA-s) encouragi...
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Bycatch of seabirds in longline fisheries includes mortalities and live captures (mainly during hauling). Excluding outliers, the latter accounts for 5–70% (mean 40.4%) of all bycaught birds in demersal, and 3–23% (mean 10.7%) in pelagic longline fisheries. The proportion that later die from injuries is unknown, and this cryptic mortality complicat...
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In a highly dynamic airspace, flying animals are predicted to adjust foraging behaviour to variable wind conditions to minimize movement costs. Sexual size dimorphism is widespread in wild animal populations, and for large soaring birds which rely on favourable winds for energy‐efficient flight, differences in morphology, wing loading and associate...
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Aim Marine protected areas can serve to regulate harvesting and conserve biodiversity. Within large multi‐use MPAs, it is often unclear to what degree critical sites of biodiversity are afforded protection against commercial activities. Addressing this issue is a prerequisite if we are to appropriately assess sites against conservation targets. We...
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Invasive species present a major conservation threat globally and nowhere are their affects more pronounced than in island ecosystems. Determining how native island populations respond demographically to invasive species can provide information to mitigate the negative effects of invasive species. Using 20 years of mark-recapture data from three sy...
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Southern Ocean ecosystems are under pressure from resource exploitation and climate change1,2. Mitigation requires the identification and protection of Areas of Ecological Significance (AESs), which have so far not been determined at the ocean-basin scale. Here, using assemblage-level tracking of marine predators, we identify AESs for this globally...
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The Retrospective Analysis of Antarctic Tracking Data (RAATD) is a Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research project led jointly by the Expert Groups on Birds and Marine Mammals and Antarctic Biodiversity Informatics, and endorsed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. RAATD consolidated tracking data for mul...
Article
The Retrospective Analysis of Antarctic Tracking Data (RAATD) is a Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research project led jointly by the Expert Groups on Birds and Marine Mammals and Antarctic Biodiversity Informatics, and endorsed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. RAATD consolidated tracking data for mul...
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Full-text available
Although there is a consensus about the evolutionary drivers of animal migration, considerable work is necessary to identify the mechanisms that underlie the great variety of strategies observed in nature. The study of differential migration offers unique opportunities to identify such mechanisms and allows comparisons of the costs and benefits of...
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Prions Pachyptila are the most abundant seabirds in the Southern Ocean and comprise two main groups: those with and without bill lamellae to filter zooplankton. With few exceptions, each breeding location supports at most one species from each of these groups. However, Gough Island supports two morphologically very similar, filter-feeding species:...
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Penguins (Sphenisciformes) are a remarkable order of flightless wing-propelled diving seabirds distributed widely across the southern hemisphere. They share a volant common ancestor with Procellariiformes close to the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (66 million years ago) and subsequently lost the ability to fly but enhanced their diving capabilities...
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Over evolutionary time, pathogen challenge shapes the immune phenotype of the host to better respond to an incipient threat. The extent and direction of this selection pressure depends on the local pathogen composition, which is in turn determined by biotic and abiotic features of the environment. However, little is known about adaptation to local...
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Background: Foraging performance is widely hypothesized to play a key role in shaping age-specific demographic rates in wild populations, yet the underlying behavioral changes are poorly understood. Seabirds are among the longest-lived vertebrates, and demonstrate extensive age-related variation in survival, breeding frequency and success. The bre...
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Diet analyses can reveal important changes in seabird foraging ecology and, by inference, resource availability and predator–prey dynamics within the wider marine ecosystem. Here, we analysed stomach contents of 1544 grey-headed albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma (GHA) and black-browed albatross T. melanophris (BBA) chicks from Bird Island, South G...
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The identification of geographic areas where the densities of animals are highest across their annual cycles is a crucial step in conservation planning. In marine environments, however, it can be particularly difficult to map the distribution of species, and the methods used are usually biased towards adults, neglecting the distribution of other li...
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Increasing amounts of anthropogenic debris enter the ocean because of mismanagement in coastal communities and, despite a global ban on deliberate dumping, also from vessels, endangering wildlife. Assessing marine plastic pollution directly is challenging, and an alternative is to use seabirds as bioindicators. Our analyses of long time-series (26-...