Antarctic penguins could experience a ‘population boom’ due to global warming as melting sea ice means they have to spend less time foraging for food.
Japanese scientists describe the Adélie species of penguin, which is native to Antarctica, as a ‘rare global warming winner’ thanks to melting ice.
In low-ice conditions, penguins are able travel more by swimming than by walking, which increases their access to foods such as fish and krill.
For Adélies, swimming is four times faster than walking, meaning faster access to food and, in turn, healthier offspring and longer lifespans.
The research team electronically tagged nearly 200 penguins in the Antarctica with GPS devices, video cameras and other equipment to monitor the effects of less ice.
The penguins were shown to be able to conduct shorter dives while catching more krill, due to not having to locate cracks in the ice for breathing while submerged.
This higher foraging success led chicks to grow faster and higher body mass in adult males and females.
It turns out that these penguins are happier with less sea-ice,’ said lead researcher Yuuki Watanabe at the National Institute of Polar Research in Tachikawa, Japan.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but the underlying mechanism is actually quite simple.
They may be sleek in the water but are pretty slow waddlers overland.’
Antarctica, the Earth’s southernmost continent, has actually experienced a steady increase over the course of decades in the extent of its sea ice – frozen seawater.
This contrasts with its polar twin, the Arctic, which has suffered through a marked decrease.
via The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)
June 29, 2020 at 07:39AM