Thursday, 22 February 2024
SportsScientists discover unknown colonies of emperor penguins in Antarctica

Scientists discover unknown colonies of emperor penguins in Antarctica

New satellite images show previously unknown colonies of emperor penguins.

Emperor penguins, the largest in the world, are considered “near endangered” of extinction.

In the Antarctic winter they raise their chicks in areas of frozen sea ice. But most chicks will die if the ice breaks before they have fledged.

At least some emperor penguins are moving their colonies as melting ice caused by climate change threatens breeding grounds, according to a study published Wednesday.

A colony of penguins near Halley Bay appears to have moved about 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the east, said Peter Fretwell, a researcher with the British Antarctic Survey. He said unstable conditions starting in 2016 had made the previous location dangerous.

“Emperor penguins have taken on the task of searching for more stable sea ice,” he said.

The four newly discovered colonies likely existed for many years, but scientists had not detected them before, Fretwell said. They are mostly small colonies, with less than a thousand breeding pairs each. Currently, scientists are aware of 66 emperor penguin colonies.

The new colonies detected do not greatly modify global population estimates – currently less than about 300,000 breeding pairs – but they help scientists understand where the penguins could be moving, Fretwell explained.

It’s unknown whether any of the newly identified colonies could be a breakaway group from larger colonies, said Daniel Zitterbart, a penguin researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who was not involved in the study.

But it is clear that breeding grounds are changing and that a warming planet means more “penguins will be on the move.”

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Science and Educational Media Group of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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