Remember the four feet tall Emperor penguins in the movies “March of the Penguins” and “Happy Feet”. They are the largest sea birds on earth, in case you didn’t know. Well, according to a new study by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), these penguins may eventually disappear due to the global warming!
The decline in the number of penguins has been attributed by the study to the warming temperatures in the Terre Adélie region. The study shows that raising temperatures lead to ice breaks up, which lead to massive breeding failure in penguins.
Huge mortality rates have been reported in these species during breeding season. Only 50% of chicks survive to the end of the breeding season where again only half of those fledglings survive until the next year.
These birds normally eat fish, squid, and krill, which feed on zooplankton and phytoplankton, tiny organisms that grow on the underside of the ice. If ice breaks then it naturally affects the birds feeding system because of the break in food chain relation.
The team used data from several different sources, including climate models, sea ice forecasts, and a demographic model to determine how climate changes and sea ice breakage might affect the Emperor penguin population at Terre Adélie.
The team suggests if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise in today’s level it cause temperature rise in Antarctic region and roughly 500 to 600 breeding pairs will remain by 2100. At present the population size is around 3000 breeding pairs.
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