Why Are Argentina’s Magellanic Penguin Chicks Dying?

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 worlds biggest colony of Magellanic penguins on the arid Punta Tombo peninsula in Argentina.

Credit: Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

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.

The range of the Magellanic penguin. Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

“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.

Wikimedia/CC BY 2.0

Via PloS OneBBC

This post originally appeared on TreeHugger

Photo Credit: David via Wikimedia Commons

79 comments

Carrie-Anne Brown
Carrie-Anne Brownabout a year ago

sad news but thanks for sharing

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Just another effect of global warming ;(

Carole R.
Carole R.2 years ago

What a shame. :0(

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B.2 years ago

Poor babies - I'm sick of the injustice of climate change. Whilst the innocent animals suffer the guilty continue to get away with ever more.

Michael A.
Michael A.2 years ago

ty

Alina Kanaski
Alina Kanaski2 years ago

Sad. Thanks for sharing.

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 years ago

Krysta I.,
Actually, I am getting my into from the people who actually study the climate. In the face of all the evidence (not just contrary), you will see that neither the position of those predicting coming cooling nor those predicting accelerated warming stands up to scrutiny. If the best you can do when someone disagreed with you is to say grow up, then that tells me that you really need to heed your own advice.
The other option is to read what the actual scientists have found.

krysta I.
Past Member 2 years ago

Well, I intend to listen to and heed what the actual scientists who study climate change say. I don't know where you get your info from, Dan B., perhaps the Dr. Tarr and Professor Feather webiste www.knoweverythingbouteverything.com? I find it hard to believe that in the face of all contrary evidence there are people who believe our impact on the natural world has not been devastatingly destructive. Why keep your head in the sand? Is the thought of cleaning up the earth, cutting back on finite resources, etc. that terrifying for you? Come on Dan, it's time for everyone to grow up and take responsibility. Oh, and showing respect for animals isn't a bit painful either!

Alorha Breaw
Alorha Breaw2 years ago

Such sweet creatures!
Concerning their current hardship I tend to agree with Alex & Rosemary.
When it comes to stats & reports concerning climate change /global warning, quite frankly I am a dunce & very grateful for the hard & dedicated work of those committed to researching it in a clean, unbiased, reality based way.
But from a personal & albeit limited perspective of walking everywhere, observing & experiencing the changes in the seasons, plant & animal activity, etc. three things stand out for me: 1. In the past 30+ yrs there indeed have been many changes.. basic things like when plants bloom, trees flower, squirrels behavior & when or how they gather winter provisions, etc. 2. Nature is a master at keeping things in balance through natural changes we may or may not have any in-depth understanding of. 3. Climate change will occure no matter what but how it ultimately affects us will be in direct correlation to our interaction with the earth, positive or negative depending on how well we deal with excess pollution, chemicals, gmo usage, development, mining, drilling...a very long list. This is our living, breathing, life sustaining home & deserves the best, not worst, we have to give.

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.2 years ago

Oh, no, not another suffering creature because of us! I'm not saying definitely that this is, or is not, caused by global warming. Quite likely it is, but as Alex H points out, there can be other causes.