What’s getting to be a familiar story, the warming ocean waters continue “unraveling” sea life. In a recent “Science News” story, Adelie and chinstrap penguins are another species undergoing a forced weight-loss program—less available krill for meals in the West Antarctic Peninsula.
The April 11, 2011 report by The National Academy of Sciences, “Variability in krill biomass links harvesting and climate warming to penguin population changes in Antarctica” goes on to note that the surrounding sea temperature have risen 5 to 6 degrees Celsius in recent decades—impacting krill, the penguins main food source.
One of the coauthors, Wayne Trivelpiece, quoted in the “Science News” piece, further notes, “Numbers of these tiny crustaceans (krill), the bottom-most animals in marine food webs, have dropped by up to 80 percent throughout the region. Some of that has to do with whales and seals — many of these krill-eating species have resurged since the end of Moby Dick-era hunting. But, Trivelpiece says, the story also comes back to ice. Young krill grow big and fat while hiding under ice masses. Less ice means less krill, and that means both Adélies and chinstraps go hungry. Ironically, the empty buffet is especially bad even for chinstraps, Trivelpiece argues, since — unlike Adélies — these birds don’t live elsewhere in the Antarctic. So although these birds were once thought to represent climate change’s silver lining, he says, today “they’re likely to be one of the more impacted of all.”