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 Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

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: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>