60-Second Earth

Penguin Species Could Be Climate Winner

Although climate change will cause massive disruption, it could benefit some species, such as the Adelie penguin. David Biello reports

The list of species potentially imperiled by climate change is long, from polar bears to certain types of pine trees.

But there are also those species that will benefit from the changed climate conditions. And a new study that uses data collection stretching back more than 50 years finds that the Adelie penguins of Beaufort Island near Antarctica may be one of the fortunate climate cases. [Michelle A. LaRue et al., Climate Change Winners: Receding Ice Fields Facilitate Colony Expansion and Altered Dynamics in an Adélie Penguin Metapopulation in PLoS ONE]

Aerial photographs and satellite images reveal that this colony nearly doubled in size between 1958 and 2010, swelling from 35,000 breeding pairs to 64,000 families.

The reason is an increase in the kind of nesting habitat Adelie penguins love: rocky beaches revealed by the melting back of snow and ice. Such a melt back is considered likely for many other locations in the Antarctic suggesting the penguins may find even more homeland soon.

The expansion may also be because other critters, like the krill and silverfish the penguins eat have been increasing, although census data is lacking. And more Adelies might prove good news for leopard seals, who dine on them. Of course, that’s only if the seals can stand the warmer waters.

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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