All the internet pages are rumoring about their death, but the truth about the penguins that have dissapeared in Antarctica sounds a little bit different. As terrible as the news may appear at first glance, there’s no proof yet that the birds are dead.
What reasearchers sustain is that a colony of Adélie penguins in Antartica’s Cape Denison has decreased from 160,000 to just 10,000 since 2011, when a huge iceberg ominously named B09B became grounded in nearby Commonwealth Bay. These reports stated that the iceberg, which is close to the size of Rhode Island, had crippled the penguins’ food supply, effectively stranding them and leaving them to die.
But is this really true? Because no one has actually found 150,000 frozen penguins. There is, however, another theory in line: the colonies are doing just fine, which indicates that rather than having starved to death, the penguins could have simply moved to another home.
Usually, when the fishing gets tough, penguins simply pick up and move. It wouldn’t be the first time Adélie penguins marched to new digs. When an iceberg grounded in the southern Ross Sea in 2001, penguins on Ross Island relocated to nearby colonies until the ice broke up.
Michelle LaRue, a penguin population researcher at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis adds credibility to the explanation:
Just because there are a lot fewer birds observed doesn’t automatically mean the ones that were there before have perished.
She also pointed out that the penguins easily could have moved elsewhere, which would make sense if nearby colonies were thriving.
— Michelle LaRue (@drmichellelarue) February 15, 2016
However, the study on the iceberg’s impact on the Adelie penguins can provide scientists understanding into the broader implications on the impact brought about by an increasing sea ice in the area. Continuing environmental changes are anticipated for the Southern Ocean, which will possibly have an impact into predatory marine animals, as per a 2015 report.
Moreover, ecological changes due to climate change could stimulate major changes in the breeding habitats of the animals, the food source in a marine ecosystem and the accessibility of prey for bigger predators.
The continuing melting of glaciers or deglaciation, plays a key role in the decline of Adelie penguins’ population over the past 1,000 years, affirmed the scientists. While changes in sea ice can directly have an impact into the species, it is crucial to keep on monitoring the penguins’ population over a longer period of time.
All in all, the good news is that the Adelie penguins are probably just fine – they just decided to change the scenery, by moving to another home.
Image Source: wordpress.com.