Receding sea ice in recent decades has had researchers concerned that the long-studied emperor penguin colony shown in “March of the Penguins” would lose its breeding ground.
Recent findings, however, have given scientists hope that the penguins can in fact move to different breeding grounds as the environment around them changes.
A new study, published in the journal Ecography suggests emperor penguins may adapt better to the effects of climate change than researchers previously believed.
Emperor penguins were thought to return to their nesting ground to breed, but satellite images from the University of Minnesota proved this theory wrong. Over a three year period, the research team watched a group of penguins change breeding grounds six times.
“Our research showing that colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviors we thought we understood about emperor penguins,” said lead author Michelle LaRue at the IDEACITY conference. “If we assume that these birds come back to the same locations every year, without fail, these new colonies we see on satellite images wouldn’t make any sense. These birds didn’t just appear out of thin air-they had to have come from somewhere else. This suggests that emperor penguins move among colonies. That means we need to revisit how we interpret population changes and the causes of those changes.”
“If we want to accurately conserve the species, we really need to know the basics,” said LaRue. “We’ve just learned something unexpected, and we should rethink how we interpret colony fluctuations.”
After the recent UN report on climate change calling for urgent action, it’s nice to see a positive story occurring in nature.
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