Feb 25 2008


Penguin 11 here. It’s been awhile. Quite frankly several of us penguins were given DVD collections of “Lost” and we surrendered. We know something about living on an island or so we thought – anyway it has been fascinating to see what you humans do in a time of crisis, or during a manufactured crisis for the cameras. Before I say goodbye to “Lost” let me say I hope Kate takes care of Aaron. We are now in a “Lost” support group, focused on regaining our equilibrium. And our group leader, Penguin 815, probably won’t be happy with me even saying these things.

My first assignment is returning to our major task – communicating with you.

How about the bad news first. And the bad news second.

King Penguin – Photo: Getty Images

Our brothers and sisters – The Kings – have been told they face a death sentence.

Roger Highfield, the Science Editor of the UK Telegraph, writes:

The prospect that the King penguin will go extinct as a result of climate warming is rising inexorably, scientists say today.

Second only to Emperor penguins in size, King Penguins – distinguished by their ear patches of bright golden-orange feathers – thrive on the islands at the northern reaches of Antarctica, with a total population of over two million breeding pairs.


Because King penguins sit on the food chain in their region, they are sensitive indicators of alterations to the marine ecosystem and feel the effects of climate change more keenly as a result – in this case, the warming is reducing their food supply.

Global warming is happening much more quickly in some parts of the frozen continent, particularly the north-west area known as the Antarctic Peninsula, where in the last 50 years temperatures have risen by about 2.5ºC – as much as five times the world average
But for these penguins, which do not live near the peninsula, the effects are caused by a warming of sub polar sea surface temperatures.

King Penguin – Photo: Getty Images

Highfield continues his report on the work of Yvon Le Maho of the CNRS Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, Strasbourg on the breeding and survival of penguins on Possession Island in the Crozet Archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean:

With Céline Le Bohec and colleagues, Dr Le Maho shows today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that high sea surface temperatures in the penguins wintering range, where two thirds of the world’s population of this species reside, diminished the amount of available marine prey, which decreased the survival of adult King penguins since they had to travel greater distances to find food.

The birds feed on small fish and squid, relying less on krill and other small crustaceans than many other sea mammals, and the find suggests that these species are suffering as a result of warming of the Southern Ocean.



Anyway, just when we thought it was safe to go back into the water … SHARKS! We penguins have enough to worry about as it is. But sharks – that’s too much.

Climate researchers are now suggesting that warming ocean temperatures might make the Antarctic waters inviting for sharks.

Antarctica’s waters remain too cold for crabs, sharks and other fish to survive in, but global warming has already caused temperatures to increase by one to two degrees Celsius over the past 50 years, said University of Rhode Island biology professor Cheryl Wilga …

… the Antarctic seafloor has been dominated by relatively soft-bodied, slow-moving invertebrates, just as in ancient oceans prior to the evolution of shell-crushing predators,” she said on the sidelines of the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The water only needs to remain above freezing year round for it to become habitable to some sharks, and at the rate we’re going, that could happen this century,” Wilga said.

The BBC also reported the story:

Unique marine life in Antarctica will be at risk from an invasion of sharks, crabs and other predators if global warming continues, scientists warn.

Crabs are poised to return to the Antarctic shallows, threatening creatures such as giant sea spiders and floppy ribbon worms, says a UK-US team.

Some have evolved without predators for tens of millions of years … “Sharks are going to arrive in Antarctica as long as the warming trend continues, a bit more slowly than crabs – crabs are going to get there first,” said Professor Cheryl Wilga … “But once they do get there they are capable of eating the organisms that live there.”

Crabs and sharks – our version of the Others!

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