Galapagos Penguin: extinction is too close



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Galapagos Penguin: extinction is too close

The Galapagos penguin, like any other penguin, feeds mainly on fish. It is suffering like other birds of its order of rising temperatures (global warming), which means that it can find fewer fish than its favorite for its diet.

As the name implies, it is found almost exclusively on the Galápagos, it is the penguin that lives further north, straddling the Equator. Due to the warm environment, Galápagos penguins have developed techniques to stay cool.

The feathers on their back, flippers, and head are black, and they have a white belly and a stripe looping from their eyes down to their neck and chin. Each penguin keeps only one mate, and breeds year-round. Their nests are typically in caves and crevices as protection against predators and the harsh environment.

The Galápagos penguin has a lifespan of about 15 to 20 years, but due to predation, life expectancy in the wild could be significantly reduced. Ninety percent of Galápagos penguins live on Fernandina Island and the west coast of Isabela Island, in the western part of the archipelago, but small populations also occur on Santiago, Bartolomé, northern Santa Cruz, and Floreana.

The northern tip of Isabela crosses the equator, meaning that some Galápagos penguins live in the Northern Hemisphere, the only penguins to do so. Galápagos penguins have a lifespan ranging from 15 to 20 years, but because of environmental factors and predation, their life expectancy is reduced.

They are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered, and as of 2018 there are around 1,200 mature penguins left. It is currently the rarest penguin species. The Galapagos penguin is a particularly vulnerable bird species due to its limited range on the islands of the Galapagos.

With a population of only about 1800, it remains on the endangered species list, and its population will likely fluctuate strongly in response to anthropogenic changes in the region. The primary danger to the Galapagos penguin is the climate phenomena known as El Niño.

The warmer temperatures of El Niño events result in a decrease in upwelling of the cold nutrient rich waters which decreases phytoplankton productivity and results in bottom up trophic disruptions that reduce the food availability for the Galapagos penguin.

Another potential threat to the Galapagos penguin is disease. Preliminary studies, such as one conducted in 2001, found no evidence of Avian Malaria or Marek's disease in Galapagos penguin populations. The presence of this parasite suggests that diseases are able to travel from other populations to the isolated Galapagos penguin communities.

Further research suggests that cross-species transmission may occur between endemic Galapagos species and migratory birds such as the Bobolink.