Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Antarctic emperor penguins may be adapting to warmer temperatures

Date:
January 9, 2014
Source:
British Antarctic Survey
Summary:
A new study of four Antarctic emperor penguin colonies suggest that unexpected breeding behavior may be a sign that the birds are adapting to environmental change. Analysis of satellite observations reveals that penguin colonies moved from their traditional breeding grounds during years when the thin layer of ice (sea ice) formed later than usual to the much thicker floating ice shelves that surround the continent.

Emperor penguin colony viewed from the air.
Credit: Ian Potten

A new study of four Antarctic emperor penguin colonies suggest that unexpected breeding behaviour may be a sign that the birds are adapting to environmental change.

Analysis of satellite observations reveals that penguin colonies moved from their traditional breeding grounds during years when the thin layer of ice (sea ice) formed later than usual to the much thicker floating ice shelves that surround the continent.

Reporting this week in the online journal, PLOS ONE, a team of scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the Australian Antarctic Division and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego in California, describe this extraordinary change in behaviour.

Lead author, Peter Fretwell of BAS said, "These charismatic birds tend to breed on the sea ice because it gives them relatively easy access to waters where they hunt for food. Satellite observations captured of one colony in 2008, 2009 and 2010 show that the concentration of annual sea ice was dense enough to sustain a colony. But this was not the case in 2011 and 2012 when the sea ice did not form until a month after the breeding season began. During those years the birds moved up onto the neighbouring floating ice shelf to raise their young.

"What's particularly surprising is that climbing up the sides of a floating ice shelf -- which at this site can be up to 30 metres high -- is a very difficult manoeuvre for emperor penguins. Whilst they are very agile swimmers they have often been thought of as clumsy out of the water."

The emperor penguins' reliance on sea ice as a breeding platform coupled with recent concern about changing patterns of sea ice has led to the species being designated as 'near threatened' by the IUCN red list. The discovery suggests the species may be capable of adapting their behaviour.

In recent years satellite technology has significantly enhanced the scientists' ability to locate and monitor emperor penguin populations.

Barbara Wienecke of the Australian Antarctic Division said, "These new findings are an important step forward in helping us understand what the future may hold for these animals, however, we cannot assume that this behaviour is widespread in other penguin populations. The ability of these four colonies to relocate to a different environment -- from sea ice to ice shelf -- in order to cope with local circumstances, was totally unexpected. We have yet to discover whether or not other species may also be adapting to changing environmental conditions."

Gerald Kooyman, of the Scripps Institution added: "Without satellite imagery these moves onto shelf ice would not have been detected. It is likely that there are other nuances of the emperor penguin environment that will be detected sooner through their behaviour than by more conventional means of measuring environmental changes."

Whereas sea-ice is frozen salt water, ice shelves are made up of glacial ice that has flowed from the land onto the sea. At the outer edge of an ice shelf ice cliffs can form and these can be anything up to 60 metres high.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by British Antarctic Survey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Peter T. Fretwell, Phil N. Trathan, Barbara Wienecke, Gerald L. Kooyman. Emperor Penguins Breeding on Iceshelves. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (1): e85285 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085285

Cite This Page:

British Antarctic Survey. "Antarctic emperor penguins may be adapting to warmer temperatures." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109004311.htm>.
British Antarctic Survey. (2014, January 9). Antarctic emperor penguins may be adapting to warmer temperatures. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109004311.htm
British Antarctic Survey. "Antarctic emperor penguins may be adapting to warmer temperatures." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109004311.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) Rescuers were forced to suspend plans to recover at least two dozen bodies from near the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Tuesday after increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Balloon Descends to Bottom of Croatian Cave

Raw: Balloon Descends to Bottom of Croatian Cave

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) An Austrian balloon pilot has succeeded in taking a balloon deep underground, a feat which he believes is a world first. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bodies Recovered from Japan Volcano Eruption

Bodies Recovered from Japan Volcano Eruption

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Rescue crews finished recovering the remaining 27 bodies from atop Japan's Mount Ontake Monday. At least 31 people were killed Saturday in the mountain's first fatal volcanic event in modern history. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins