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 A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers devise microreactor to study formation of methane hydrate

23.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

ShAPEing the future of magnesium car parts

23.08.2017 | Automotive Engineering

New insights into the world of trypanosomes

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>