Science/Health

East Antarctica shelters nearly 6 million Adelie penguins but threatened by moving ice, melting glaciers

By Mharia Emmareen / 2017.03.19
Adelie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) on iceberg.

More than a million Adelie penguins are enjoying the cool weather and waters of Antarctica. Scientists previously thought that only a few millions of this flightless bird inhabit the continent but are surprised to find out that the figure is actually doubled.

Adelie penguins living in East Antarctica are approximately 2.3 million. However, a recent survey suggests of a new count which doubles the assessment to 5.9 million birds in the said region. A group of researchers concluded a broad count of the penguin community. The vast counting was made possible through the ground and aerial investigations, automated cameras, and tagging data just in time for numerous breeding seasons, Live Science reported.

Australian Antarctic Division of the Australian government's Department of the Environment and Energy seabird ecologist, Louise Emmerson said, "Nonbreeding birds are harder to count because they are out, foraging at sea, rather than nesting in colonies on land. However, our study in East Antarctica has shown that nonbreeding Adelie penguins may be as, or more, abundant than the breeders."

According to the most recent estimate of Adelie penguins in East Antarctica which reached to about 5.9 million the worldwide population of the said species (Pygoscelis adeliae), is probably 14 to 16 million individuals. The study likewise unveiled that aside from searching rocky areas free of ice to put up its nests, the penguins move closer to where humans are.

National Geographic reported cited that the higher statistics of the Adelie penguins both calls for a celebration as well as concern. The bird community can traverse the whole Antarctic continent with the birds remaining generally on the land. Throughout the summer of Antarctic which starts from October to February, the birds set up its nest and breed. At the same time, adults will need to trek up to 30 miles to hunt for food such as fish and krill.

Although the population of the Adelie penguins doubled, the birds are threatened not because of hunting but of climate change where Antarctica is significantly exposed to. The melting glaciers along with the movement of ice are possible to decrease sustainable homestead for the penguin. Warm waters too could affect the opportunity hunting large numbers of prey.

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