The famous emperor penguin may have spent its longest time on Earth. A new US study shows that almost all colonies of the species are at risk of extinction by the end of this century.
If climate change continues at its current pace, more than 98 percent of all emperor penguin colonies will be virtually extinct within 80 years, a group of researchers predicted in the latest issue of the journal. The biology of global change. In the short term, the outlook for animals is hardly better: by 2050, two-thirds of all colonies will be extinct.
Emperor penguins are the largest species of penguin in the world. They were also stars in cartoons happy feet (2006). Unlike other penguins, emperor penguins breed in the full Antarctic winter. Then they bravely deal with temperatures up to minus 60 degrees. A study published in 2020 estimated that there are still about 280,000 breeding pairs left worldwide, almost all of them in Antarctica. These species are particularly vulnerable to climate change because, like polar bears in the Arctic, they depend on the presence of sea ice for their survival.
Penguins breed on stable sea ice that also provides protection against their worst enemies such as killer whales and sharks. “If there is too little sea ice, the chicks can drown if the sea ice breaks too early,” researcher Stephanie Jenoferre, a seabird specialist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and lead author of the study, said in a statement. Parents’ feeding journeys become very long and difficult and chicks can starve.”
In parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, much of the sea ice has melted over the past three decades and a colony of one emperor penguin has already disappeared, the researchers said. There are only a few animals left, and very few give the colony a future. The early melting of the ice is said to have caused 10,000 chicks to drown when the ice broke before they were ready to swim. “Although they are located in Antarctica, far from human civilization, they live in a delicate balance with their environment, which is rapidly changing today.”
After the study, the US Department of Fish and Wildlife will decide today whether the emperor penguin will be placed on the endangered species list. More and more animals are on this list due to climate change. Emperor penguins are an essential part of the Antarctic food chain, they themselves prey on krill, squid, and small fish and are a food source for tiger seals and killer whales.
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