Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Changing Ocean Conditions Turning Penguins Into Long-Distance Commuters

16.02.2009
Magellanic penguins, like most other species of the flightless birds, are having their survival challenged by wide variability in conditions and food availability, a University of Washington biologist has found.

Imagine you live in the suburbs of Chicago and you must commute hundreds of miles to a job in Iowa just to put food on the table. Magellanic penguins living on the Atlantic coast of Argentina face a similar scenario, and it is taking a toll.

The penguins' survival is being challenged by wide variability in conditions and food availability, said Dee Boersma, a University of Washington biology professor and a leading authority on Magellanic penguins.

For example, while one parent incubates eggs on the nest the other must go off to find food. But these days, Boersma said, penguins often must swim 25 miles farther to find food than they did just a decade ago.

"That distance might not sound like much, but they also have to swim another 25 miles back, and they are swimming that extra 50 miles while their mates are back at the breeding grounds, sitting on a nest and starving," she said.

Boersma has recently published research documenting some of the serious challenges faced by Magellanic penguins in a colony at Punta Tombo, Argentina, that she has studied for more than 25 years. She discusses her research Thursday (Feb. 12) during a news briefing and Friday during a symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

The Punta Tombo colony has declined more than 20 percent in the last 22 years, leaving just 200,000 breeding pairs, Boersma said.

There are several reasons for the decline, including oil pollution and overharvesting of fish by humans. Climate variation also is a major problem, she found.

Longer trips for food during a given breeding season lessen the chances that a given penguin pair will successfully reproduce. Some younger penguins move to colonies that are closer to food one year but might be farther away from food the following year. Increased ocean variability means penguins often return to their breeding grounds later and are in poorer condition to breed.

They also are increasingly subject to having their desert nests flooded by rain. Five times in the last 25 years, Boersma said, the Punta Tombo reserve has recorded about 2.5 inches of rain between Oct. 15 and Dec. 16, which threatens the survival of eggs and small chicks.

"That turns their little nests into swimming pools," she said.

In addition, there have been increasing instances of El Niño-like events that alter ocean currents, forcing penguins to travel farther for the fish on which they feed. Increasingly, Boersma has found that penguins she tagged at Punta Tombo years ago are turning up in colonies as much as 250 miles farther north. Birds migrating in search of food are forming the new colonies, but often they end up on land that is not part of a government preserve like Punta Tombo is.

The problems don't just confront Magellanic penguins, said Boersma, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Penguin Project. Of 17 penguin species, 12 are experiencing rapid population declines. The least concern is for the emperor, king, Adélie, little blue and chinstrap penguins, she said. All the rest are nearly threatened, threatened or endangered.

She noted that the success of Argentine fishing fleets is a good signal for how the Magellanic penguins will fare in a given winter as they store nutrition to prepare for the breeding season. There is a small anchovy fishery in the winter, and penguins also favor anchovies. But when the boats don't do well catching anchovies in the winter, that is bad news for penguins in the following breeding season.

"They do well when the fishermen are catching anchovies. If the fishermen are not successful, the penguins start to falter," Boersma said. "If the fishery expands and then collapses, as most do, the penguins will be in trouble.

"Penguins are having trouble with food on their wintering grounds and if that happens they're not going to come back to their breeding grounds," she said. "If we continue to fish down the food chain and take smaller and smaller fish like anchovies, there won't be anything left for penguins and other wildlife that depend on these small fish for food."

For more information, contact Boersma at 206-616-2185, 206-616-4054 or boersma@u.washington.edu

Vince Stricherz | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>