Terrible news for two species of penguin found on the Antarctica Peninsula: the Adélie and chinstrap penguins are in a steady decline. The nonprofit, Oceanites that conducted the study monitors penguins and other Antarctica birds. Using satellite photographs and analysis from almost 700 nesting sites from across Antarctica, the study researched many species of penguins. The study published by Oceanites was done with in collaboration with NASA and Stony Brook University in New York.
Adélie penguins are a type of penguin commonly found around the Antarctica coast. Named after Adélie Dumont D’urville, the wife of the French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville who discovered the penguins in 1840. The penguins are mid-sized, 18 to 28 inches in height and weigh between 8 to 13 pounds. Adélie penguins have distinctive marks with a white ring around the eye and feathers at penguin’s bill base.
Chinstrap penguins are found around the islands and shores in the Southern Pacific and the Antarctic Oceans. The penguins are named after the narrow black band under their heads making them look like they are wearing a black helmet. They are also called ringed, bearded, or stonecracker penguins. They are almost 30 inches tall and weigh between six and 11 pounds.
The researchers looked at the Antarctica Peninsula which has risen in temperature of around five degrees Fahrenheit in 60 years. Other penguins in the area have been observed adapting to the changes in Antarctica. Ron Naveen, Oceanites found and president, said to CBS News that he has “witnessed” the decline of the penguins in just “one generation,” calling them the “canaries” of Antarctica. Because of the changes in Antarctica, the penguins are providing “critical insights” into the area. According to PBS, the penguin population in Antarctica has “dropped more than 25 percent on average over the past two decades.”
While the gentoo penguins adapted to the change by eating more fish, the Adélie and chinstrap penguins have not exhibited the “same behaviors,” according to CBS News. Because of climate change, the sea ice is collapsing forcing the penguins to hunt. Adélie penguins in other parts of Antarctica where climate change has not affected the area as much are healthier. These areas include the East Antarctica and the Ross Sea.
The survey published by Oceanites said that more research must be done to see how much climate change has affected the Antarctica penguin populations. Naveen speaking to PBS said that “what happens to penguins, happens to us all.”
By Cheryl Werber