//
you're reading...

Climate Change

Warming up to the neighborhood: a gentoo penguin’s new digs

Citation: Korczak-Abshire, M., Hinke, J. T., Milinevsky, G., Juáres, M. A. and Watters, G. M. 2021. Coastal regions of the northern Antarctic Peninsula are key for gentoo populations. Biol. Lett. 17:20200708.http://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2020.0708

A lone gentoo penguin on a walk. commons.wikimedia.org

When you hear the word “Antarctica,” things such as glaciers, brutal winds, and penguins likely come to mind. Combine that with “climate change” and you might think of melting ice sheets and habitat loss for said penguins. That might be the case for ice-reliant species like the Adélie or Emperor penguin, but for the ice-intolerant gentoo (pronounced JEN-too) penguin, the shift in temperatures is an invitation to expand their range as more coastal areas along the Antarctic Peninsula are exposed for longer throughout the year. Gentoo penguins prefer low, ice-free elevations for their breeding colonies since the birds build their nests from collected pebbles. This preference has led to two the formation of two subspecies, with one population colonizing island chains north of the Polar Front surrounding Antarctica, and the other limited to a few islands along the western Antarctic Peninsula. (Fig. 1)

Figure 1: Habitat range of gentoo penguins. The orange region shows the approximate area gentoo penguins are typically found. They inhabit island chains north and south of a sea-ice belt that effectively divides their species into two subspecies.

Conditions around the western Antarctic Peninsula have been changing rapidly in recent decades, but data on how this has been affecting local organisms has trickled in at a slow pace. So, an international team of researchers addressed this gap in information by documenting the movements of 75 gentoo penguins over the course of a year in an effort to see how they are responding to the altered environment and assessing if there are other stressors impacting the population.

Researchers anticipated gentoos would travel shorter distances throughout the breeding season (November through January), as most would need to return to shore to care for chicks. Outside of the breeding season, they expected some southern colonies to expand further south, with the development and presence of sea ice acting as a type of barrier for the gentoos. What these satellite-tracked birds showed, however, did not match expectations.

Penguins from five separate groups, including individuals from one of the most recently established, southern colonies, were captured and tagged with satellite tags. Most tags transmitted data for a period of 4-10 months (from February through October), sending regular signals during the penguins’ typical hunting time. Researchers stitched the tracks together and created an estimated map of each colony’s range based on a penguin’s average swim speed.

While the penguins limited their travel as the breeding season approached, individuals from the separate colonies expanded their ranges further southwest along the peninsula during non-breeding months. (Fig. 2) Thanks to how specific the trackers were, researchers observed northern gentoo penguin individuals swimming further than their southern colony cousins. This kind of leap-frogging strategy has been seen before in other birds, but hasn’t been documented in gentoos before.

Figure 2: Model-predicted range of five colonies. Penguins tagged from five colonies were tracked over a number of months. Ranges were estimated based on swim speed and location data, and shown as clusters of hexagons. Key: Argentine Islands (dark blue), Cierva Cove (purple), Cape Shirreff (light blue), Stranger Point (orange) and Lions Rump (yellow). Korczak-Abshire et al., (2021) Figure 2.

As for the sea ice? Only dense sea ice formation (where more than 50% of the ocean’s surface was covered) kept gentoos from pushing further south. If sea-ice formed over less than 50% of water, the penguins were still able to set up shop and forage for food along the peninsula’s shelf. Should sea ice continue to decline in those regions throughout the next century, these gentoo colonies will likely continue expanding their ranges.

Since the ice, surprisingly, isn’t as much a deterrent as expected, the main concern for the future homes of gentoo penguins will be prey availability. The western Antarctic Peninsula is generally ripe with krill—a favorite gentoo food, and a species that supports a growing fishery. The gentoos’ health will be directly linked to how well (and how much of) the krill survives under pressure by fisheries and other predators. As with most things, the team acknowledged the data is lacking. This study, though, points us in a good direction so we can better understand this species’ changing future.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Feeling a bit flattened by the week? So are these summer flounder larvae. Fun fact: flounder larvae start out with their eyes set like normal fish, but as they grow one of their eyes migrates to meet the other and
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Have you seen a remote working setup like this? This is a photo from one of our Oceanbites team members Anne Hartwell. “A view from inside the control can of an underwater robot we used to explore the deep parts
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Today is the day of  #shutdownacademia  and  #shutdownstem  and many of us at the Oceanbites team are taking the day to plan solid actions for how we can make our organization and the institutions we work at a better place
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com