From: University of Delaware, via ScienceDaily.
Published October 28, 2014 01:11 PM

Adélie penguin chick weights correlated to temperatures

Oceanographers have reported a connection between local weather conditions and the weight of Adélie penguin chicks. Adélie penguins are an indigenous species of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), one of the most rapidly warming areas on Earth. Since 1950, the average annual temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula has increased 2 degrees Celsius on average, and 6 degrees Celsius during winter.

Adélie penguins are an indigenous species of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), one of the most rapidly warming areas on Earth. Since 1950, the average annual temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula has increased 2 degrees Celsius on average, and 6 degrees Celsius during winter.

As the WAP climate warms, it is changing from a dry, polar system to a warmer, sub-polar system with more rain.

 

University of Delaware oceanographers recently reported a connection between local weather conditions and the weight of Adélie penguin chicks in an article in Marine Ecology Progress Series, a top marine ecology journal.

Penguin chick weight at the time of fledgling, when they leave the nest, is considered an important indicator of food availability, parental care and environmental conditions at a penguin colony. A higher chick mass provides the chick a better likelihood of surviving and propagating future generations.

In the study, Megan Cimino, a UD doctoral student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and the paper's lead author, compared data from 1987 to 2011 related to the penguin's diet, the weather and the large-scale climate indices to see if they could correlate year-to-year penguin chick weight with a particular factor. She also evaluated samples from the penguin's diet to determine what they were eating.

"The ability of a penguin species to progress is dependent on the adults' investment in their chicks," said Matthew Oliver, an associate professor of marine science and policy and principal investigator on the project. "Penguins do a remarkable job of finding food for their chicks in the ocean's dynamic environment, so we thought that the type and size distribution of food sources would impact chick weight."

 

Adélie penguin chick image credit: Kit van Wagner.

 

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