Biologist Marcella Libertelli of the Argentine Antarctic Institute, in a research shared with Ruters, explained how emperor penguins face extinction within 30 years due to climate change that is destroying their habitat. The research studied 15,000 penguins in two colonies in Antarctica, including the Halley Bay colony in the Weddell Sea, the second largest emperor penguin colony, where all chicks have died for three consecutive years.
She explained: "In Antarctica, where this bird is endemic, the colonies located between latitudes 60 and 70 degrees South will disappear in the next decades, that is, in the next 30-40 years. If the water reaches the newborn penguins, that they are not ready to swim and they do not have waterproof plumage, they freeze and drown.
The disappearance of any species is a tragedy for the planet. Whether it is small or large, plant or animal, it does not matter. It is a loss to biodiversity. Tourist boats often have various negative effects on Antarctica, as does fishing.
It is important that there is more control and that we think about the future. " The loss of sea ice is endangering the long reproductive cycle of the emperor penguin, which is repeated every year during the Antarctic winter.
But if the sea freezes too late or melts prematurely, this species cannot complete its reproductive cycle.
The emperor penguin lives and breeds in a colder environment than any other bird species. The air temperature can drop as low as -40 ° C, with winds blowing up to 150 km / h.
Sea water, of -2 ° C, has a much lower temperature than the body temperature of penguins of 40 ° C. They must therefore adapt to limit heat losses. Between 80 and 90% of the isolation of penguins is guaranteed by their plumage.
The feathers are stiff, short and lanceolate, and cover the whole body, the emperor penguins have the densest plumage of any other bird. The emperor penguin is able to keep the body at a constant temperature without changing its metabolism when temperatures are between -10 and +20 ° C.
Below -10 ° C, its metabolism increases significantly. Emperor penguins live in Antarctica, around the pole, at latitudes between 66 and 78 degrees south. They generally breed on a stable pack not far from the coasts. The colonies that are formed therefore look for flat areas sheltered from the winds by rocks or icebergs to settle.
The global population of adult emperor penguins is estimated at 595,000 according to a census carried out by a team of American researchers using satellite images, in turn divided into 44 independent colonies. About 80,000 pairs can be found in the Ross Sea sector.
The largest colonies are located at Cape Washington, Coulman Island in Victoria, Halley Bay, Coats' Land and Atka Bay, Queen Maud's land. On the mainland there are two other colonies: one on a land bridge in the Dion Islands, in the Antarctic Peninsula, and the other on a promontory of the Taylor Glacier in the Australian Antarctic Territory. Isolated specimens have also been observed on the Falkland Islands, Heard Island, South Georgia and New Zealand.