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Poisoned penguins join parade of cute global warming victims

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It’s tough being a penguin: It’s cold, you have to wear the same outfit all the time, and the ice sheet you live on is melting out from underneath you. And to add insult to the injury of climate change, DDT is leaching out of that ice and into your lunch.

Researcher Heidi Geisz told Reuters that the Adelie penguins her team studies have shown stable levels of DDT — a pesticide banned by most countries, including the U.S., more than 30 years ago — for decades. Unable to detect DDT in the air, snow, or sea water, her team discovered the chemical in glacial meltwater in two separate locations in Antarctica, according to a release.

But so far, the Adelies seem to be handling DDT exposure better than peregrine falcons or California condors. The penguins haven’t produced thin-shelled eggs, and they appear to be unharmed by the chemical, Geisz says.

Tough birds. Really, what’s a little synthetic chemical in your fatty tissues when you’re used to facing Antarctic weather?

Not so fast — Geisz told Reuters that because of warming, more and more of the Adelies’ eggs get wet, then freeze.

That’s certainly hard luck for the Adelies. But on the bright side, maybe one day Morgan Freeman will tell the world about their troubles in a record-breaking, Oscar-winning sequel documentary.

— Jenn Fields

Pesticide DDT shows up in Antarctic penguins (Reuters)