Written by Michael Graham Richard
The vulnerable chicks of the Magellanic penguins are dying because of severe rainstorms and extreme heat caused by climate change, according to a new study conducted over 27 years on the world‘s biggest colony of Magellanic penguins on the arid Punta Tombo peninsula in Argentina.
As you can see in the photos above and below, the Magellanic penguin chicks are pretty big but don’t have waterproof feathers yet. This puts them in a delicate situation, because they are too large for their parents to sit on them and protect them from the weather and keep them warm. This makes them very vulnerable to rainstorms, which usually means death if they get drenched. On the other extreme, they can also die from too much heat because they cannot yet go cool off in the ocean water… Basically, they’ve evolved to live in certain conditions, but climate change has pushed things off-balance, and the poor penguin chicks are paying the price.
“Climate variability in the form of increased rainfall and temperature extremes, however, has increased in the last 50 years and kills many chicks in some years,” the authors write in the report.
In two years it was the most common cause, accounting for half the dead chicks in one year, and 43% in another.
“It’s the first long-term study to show climate change having a major impact on chick survival and reproductive success,” said lead author Prof Dee Boersma, from the University of Washington. (source)
But heat and rain aren’t the only causes of hardship for the penguins. Fish behavior also seems to have changed, with the fish they eat arriving in the breeding area later and later over the 27 years of the study. This means that eggs are hatched later too, making the chicks still more vulnerable.
This is yet one more example of the damage done by our planet’s warming climate.
This post originally appeared on TreeHugger
Photo Credit: David via Wikimedia Commons