Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Penguin Chicks

29.10.2014

Study Connects Weight to Local Weather Conditions

Adélie penguins are an indigenous species of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), one of the most rapidly warming areas on Earth. Since 1950, the average annual temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula has increased 2 degrees Celsius on average, and 6 degrees Celsius during winter.


Megan Cimino/University of Delaware

A 7-ounce decrease in chick weight could be the difference between a surviving and non-surviving penguin chick.

As the WAP climate warms, it is changing from a dry, polar system to a warmer, sub-polar system with more rain.

University of Delaware oceanographers recently reported a connection between local weather conditions and the weight of Adélie penguin chicks in an article in Marine Ecology Progress Series, a top marine ecology journal.

Penguin chick weight at the time of fledgling, when they leave the nest, is considered an important indicator of food availability, parental care and environmental conditions at a penguin colony. A higher chick mass provides the chick a better likelihood of surviving and propagating future generations.

In the study, Megan Cimino, a UD doctoral student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and the paper’s lead author, compared data from 1987 to 2011 related to the penguin’s diet, the weather and the large-scale climate indices to see if they could correlate year-to-year penguin chick weight with a particular factor. She also evaluated samples from the penguin’s diet to determine what they were eating.

“The ability of a penguin species to progress is dependent on the adults’ investment in their chicks,” said Matthew Oliver, an associate professor of marine science and policy and principal investigator on the project. “Penguins do a remarkable job of finding food for their chicks in the ocean’s dynamic environment, so we thought that the type and size distribution of food sources would impact chick weight.”

Impact of weather and climate

Instead, the study revealed that weather and overall atmospheric climate seemed to affect weights the most. In particular, local weather — including high winds, cold temperatures and precipitation, such as rain or humidity — had the largest impact on penguin chick weight variations over time. For example, westerly wind and air temperature can cause a 7-ounce change in average chick weights, as compared to 3.5-ounce change caused by wind speed and precipitation. A 7-ounce decrease in chick weight could be the difference between a surviving and non-surviving chick.

Cimino explained that while penguins do build nests, they have no way of building nests that protect the chicks from the elements. This leaves penguin chicks unprotected and exposed while adult penguins are away from the nest. Precipitation, while not considered a key variable, can cause chick plumage to become damp or wet and is generally a major factor in egg and chick mortality and slow growth.

“It’s likely that weather variations are increasing the chicks’ thermoregulatory costs; and when they are cold and wet, they have to expend more energy to keep warm,” she said.

The wind can also affect the marine environment, she continued, mixing up the water column and dispersing the krill, a penguin’s main source of food, which may cause parent penguins to remain at sea for longer periods of time and cause chicks to be fed less frequently.

“This is an interesting study, because it calls into question what happens to an ecosystem when you change climate quickly: Is it just large-scale averages that change the ecosystem or do particular daily interactions also contribute to the change,” Oliver said.

Research team

Other co-authors on the paper include William Fraser and Donna Patterson-Fraser, from the Polar Oceans Research Group, and Vincent Saba, from NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. Fraser and Patterson have been collecting data on Adélie penguins since the late 1970s, creating a strong fundamental data set that includes statistics collected over decades, even before rapid warming was observed.

By correlating the relevant environmental variables through analysis of data from sources such as space, weather stations, etc., the researchers were able to scientifically validate a potential cause for chick weight variation over time. Using big data analyses to statistically sift through the possible causes allowed the researchers to take a forensic approach to understanding the problem.

“Climate change strikes at the weak point in the cycle or life history for each different species,” Oliver said. “The Adélie penguin is incredibly adaptive to the marine environment, but climate ends up wreaking havoc on the terrestrial element of the species’ history, an important lesson for thinking about how we, even other species, are connected to the environment.”

Cimino will return to Antarctica next month to begin working with physical oceanographers from University of Alaska and Rutgers, through funding from the National Science Foundation. Using robotics, she will investigate what parent penguins actually do in the ocean in order to gain a broader perspective on how the penguins use the marine environment. In particular, she hopes to explore other possible contributing factors to chick weight variation such as parental foraging components that were not part of this study.

“It’s important for us to understand what’s going on, especially as conditions are getting warmer and wetter, because it may give us an idea of what may happen to these penguins in the future,” Cimino said.

The work reported here is supported in part through funds from the National Marine Fisheries Service, NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Contact Information
Donna O'Brien
dobrien@udel.edu
Phone: 302-831-1418

Donna O'Brien | newswise
Further information:
http://www.udel.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Bioinvasion on the rise
15.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht Litter Levels in the Depths of the Arctic are On the Rise
10.02.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biocompatible 3-D tracking system has potential to improve robot-assisted surgery

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Real-time MRI analysis powered by supercomputers

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections

17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>