Climate Change Killing Penguin Colony, NPR Reports

PUNTA TOMBO, Argentina, January 31 – Biologist Dee Boersma from the University of Washington who has lived among a penguin colony in southern Argentina on and off for 30 years has published a report claiming climate change is killing the largest colony of Magellanic penguins.

Magellanic 'Jackass' Penguins - Source: Craig Lovell/Corbis, NPR

Magellanic ‘Jackass’ Penguins – Source: Craig Lovell/Corbis, NPR

At first, Boersma was unsure what was causing the decline in the colony population. Electronic tagging suggested the penguins were having to swim farther to find food. Boersma postulates that the documented change in ocean surface temperatures over the past few decades was causing the squid which the penguins eat to move to deeper waters.

Lately, Boersma has also stated that penguin chicks are dying more often from hypothermia associated with heavy rain storms. Penguins are not equipped to handle cold and moisture to these levels until their down feathers have been replaced by more waterproof ones at around 40 days of life.

Weather records show that these rainstorms have been increasing in number and intensity for years as well.

Unusual changes in the hatching and breeding cycle of the penguins has also contributed to their problems. The chicks are now hatching over a longer period of time and at a later time of year, when severe storms in Patagonia are more common.

The article which Dee Boersma has published in the journal PLoS One can be found here.

You can read and listen to the full NPR report here.

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