At nearly four feet tall, the Emperor penguin is Antarctica’s largest sea bird—and thanks to films like “March of the Penguins” and “Happy Feet,” it’s also one of the continent’s most iconic. If global temperatures continue to rise, however, the Emperor penguins in Terre Adélie, in East Antarctica may eventually disappear, according to a new study by led by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The study was published in the June 20th edition of the journal Global Change Biology.
“Over the last century, we have already observed the disappearance of the Dion Islets penguin colony, close to the West Antarctic Peninsula,” says Stephanie Jenouvrier, WHOI biologist and lead author of the new study. “In 1948 and the 1970s, scientists recorded more than 150 breeding pairs there. By 1999, the population was down to just 20 pairs, and in 2009, it had vanished entirely.” Like in Terre Adélie, Jenouvrier thinks the decline of those penguins might be connected to a simultaneous decline in Antarctic sea ice due to warming temperatures in the region. (more…)