Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Emperor penguin colony struggling with iceberg blockade

07.11.2002


The movements of two gigantic Antarctic icebergs appear to have dramatically reduced the number of Emperor penguins living and breeding in a colony at Cape Crozier, according to two researchers who visited the site last month. The colony is one of the first ever visited by human beings early in the 20th century.



"It’s certain that the number of breeding birds is way down" from previous years, said Gerald Kooyman, a National Science Foundation-funded researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

Kooyman took aerial photos of the colony in August during the flight missions that preceded the official start of the Antarctic research season. He returned to visit the colony in October, after the season was underway, with Paul Ponganis, another NSF-funded Emperor researcher who also is at Scripps.


The photographic evidence and the scientists’ observations on the ground, Kooyman said, indicate the colony has scattered into at least five subgroups. The disruption appears to be caused by grounding in the past two years of two enormous icebergs--B-15 and C-19--near Cape Crozier.

He said that two years ago the colony was home to approximately 2,400 adult Emperors and approximately 1,200 chicks. Aerial photographs showed the researchers the current distribution of the birds and the number of groups, but they did not provide details about the number of breeding birds and the conditions in the colony. Kooyman said the site visits confirm what the photographic evidence appeared to show: ice conditions produced by the collisions of the giant bergs with the shoreline forced the bird colony to break up into smaller subgroups and also indicated the numbers of chicks and breeding pairs is greatly reduced from previous years. "The colony had been fragmented into at least five groups. I think that’s a habitat problem," he said. "The habitat is disturbed from the previous years, and I think it stays that way."

But, Kooyman said, his visit showed conditions for the birds are not as severe as he expected. "I was expecting to see just about total failure," he noted.

But a comparison with another Emperor colony at Beaufort Island, Kooyman said, also shows that the Crozier birds have been less successful finding food for their young.

"It looks like the development of the chicks has been slower than at Beaufort," he said. "And development is related to food sources. It looks like they were not as well fed."

He also said that shifts in the ice might have caused additional fatalities.

"We could not find one group. It looks like they were in an ice canyon that was eliminated by two ice plates running together," he said. As to the fate of the birds, "It’s a question of whether they got out of there or got crushed. It’s impossible for us to determine that."

The Cape Crozier colony is noted in the history of Antarctic exploration. In 1911, three members of Robert Falcon Scott’s illfated South Pole expedition hauled a sledge 60 miles from Scott’s base at Cape Evans to Cape Crozier, on the far side of Ross Island, in complete darkness and sub-zero degree (F) temperatures, to acquire three unhatched Emperor egg from the colony. At the time, Emperors were thought to perhaps represent an evolutionary "missing link" between reptiles and birds.

Kooyman the recent survey of the colony was conducted in "very demanding" conditions almost exactly a century after that episode. Airlifted to the ice near the colony by helicopter, "we took three days in fine weather to traverse the entire area because the ice was so broken up." The period of fine weather was followed by a summer storm.

Kooyman and Ponganis will compare notes on the health of the Emperor colony with David Ainley, an NSF-funded researcher who, as part of a long-term study on Adelie penguins, has been following the effects of the icebergs on Adelie colonies.

Ponganis noted that the icebergs causing the environmental change affecting the Emperor colony appear to be moving away from the area. But he added that the opportunity to study their effects on the birds adds to scientific knowledge of Emperors and their ability to adapt to change.

"It’s an incredible natural experiment as far as the physical effects on the colony and how they deal with it," he said. "Crozier is a good test of all kinds of conditions that Emperors can deal with."


Program contact:
Mario Aguilera, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
858-534-3624, maguilera@ucsd.edu

Video available upon request: Contact Dena Headlee, dheadlee@nsf.gov, 703-292-8070

Peter West | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>