Entries in Emperor Penguins (2)


Emperor Penguins Threatened By Shrinking Kingdom

John Foxx/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers studying the effects of climate change in Antarctica say shrinking sea ice means bad news for emperor penguins: an 81 percent reduction in the number of breeding pairs by 2100.

“We conclude that climate change is a significant risk for the emperor penguin,” says the study, published this week in the journal Global Change Biology.

Scientists caution, however, that the study contains large uncertainties because climate model forecasts disagree on exactly how the ice will respond to a warming world.

The study projects the number of emperor penguin breeding pairs in a colony at Terre Adélie will drop from roughly 3,000 to as few as 500 by the turn of the century. But researchers point out that if the ice does shrink at their current home, the penguins may simply move to regions with more favorable sea ice conditions.

Emperor penguins are the largest of the species and breed and raise their young almost exclusively on the ice, biologists say.

“If the sea ice breaks up too early, this will cause massive breeding failures because the chicks will not yet have the waterproof plumage that will allow them to swim in the water,” said study co-author Stephanie Jenouvrier, a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

“If they happen to be in the water, they will die,” Jenouvrier said.

Decreasing amounts of sea ice may also have a ripple effect on the penguin’s food supply, including fish, shrimp and krill.

The study’s authors relied on simulations from 20 computer climate models that assume moderate growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

A vast majority of climate scientists believe humans have been steadily warming the atmosphere and oceans since the industrial revolution, leading to “widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.”

“People say the temperature may increase by two degrees, so what?’” Jenouvrier told ABC News. “But changes that may seem small to humans are not small to species, and may affect the entire ecosystem.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Emperor Penguin Count 600K in Antarctica, Satellite Images Reveal

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANTARCTICA) -- There are a lot more black and white birds wobbling around in Antarctica than some might have thought, new satellite data reveals.

With the use of Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite images, scientists have been able to determine that there are close to 600,000 Emperor Penguins in the region -- it was previously estimated that there were 270,000 -- 350,000 birds. The scientists analyzed 44 emperor penguin colonies around Antarctica.

The satellite images in conjunction with ground counts allowed the scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Minnesota, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Australian Antarctic Division to differentiate between the animals, ice, shadow, and penguin poop (guano). According to the agencies, this is the “first compressive census of a species taken from space.”

Previously, ecologists weren’t able to gauge the environmental impact on the penguin population as accurately because of cold weather in the region; the new method has little environmental impact, is cost-effective, and accurate.

However, the new research doesn’t shed light just yet on how climate change is impacting the birds. “This research really just sets a benchmark for actually knowing how many there are. Going forward, we can see how the populations are trending through time,” Michelle A. LaRue, a scientist from the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota, told ABC News.

LaRue added that “we do know that prior to this we lost one colony to sea ice loss.”

As you can see from the image above, the black and white color of the penguins stands out against the snow in these images and the colonies of them are visible.

Unfortunately, the satellite shots aren’t very close up of the penguins, but to check out some real-life penguins right now you can always tune into SeaWorld’s Penguin cam or look at the picture below.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio