All Dressed Up and Marching Towards Destruction

Possibility of extinction looms over Emperor Penguin
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Possibility of extinction looms over Emperor Penguin

They're cute, (presumably) cuddly, and we've all confessed to wanting one after watching March of the Penguins. But new research suggests that the Emperor Penguin may be facing future extinction as a result of--big surprise--climate change.

A study by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution researchers discovered that if the present rate of sea ice melting continues, our tuxedo-wearing friends might be in big trouble. Researchers are estimating that in about 100 years, the large colony of Emperor Penguins in Terre Adelie, Antarctica, will shrink from 3,000 breeding pairs to only 400.

This research comes on the heels of a study published January 21 indicating that global warming has hit Antarctica despite previous thoughts to the contrary. The continent is the stomping (and huddling) ground for the entire wild species of Emperor Penguins, and even the slightest increase in annual temperature can have huge effects on the ice under their egg-cradling feet.

Some researchers have high hopes that the penguins will learn to adapt to the changing climate--but paper co-author Stephanie Jenouvrier is doubtful, saying, “Unlike some other Antarctic bird species that have altered their life cycles, penguins don’t catch on so quickly.”

Penguins may not be the smartest species, but they could be the cutest (just try no to "awwww..." when checking this out):

If that didn't convince you to go green for the penguins, then I guess nothing can melt your frozen heart.

--Morgan Keys

Emperor Penguins March Towards Extinction? (Science Daily)