Local Weather Affects Penguin Chick Weights

In a recent article in Marine Ecology Progress Series, a top marine ecology journal, researchers from the University of Delaware have reportedly discovered a connection between local weather conditions and the weight of Adélie penguins, an indigenous species hailing from the West Antarctic Peninsula. The West Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming areas on Earth, where temperatures have increased 2 degrees Celsius each year on average and 6 degrees Celsius during winter, since 1950.

As the climate there warms, it’s transforming from a dry, polar system into a warmer, sub-polar system with increased precipitation. Penguin chick weight when they’re fledgling (leaving the nest) is an important indicator of food availability, parental care and environmental conditions. The heavier the chicks are indicate a higher chance of survival and the likelihood of creating future generations.

Researchers compared data from 1987 to 2011 related to the penguin’s diet, weather conditions and large-scale climate indices in order to correlate annual penguin chick weights to a distinct factor. They assumed that the type and size distribution of food sources would impact chick weight. They were wrong.

Instead, they found that weather and overall atmospheric climate affected weights the most. Local weather — including high winds, cold temperatures and precipitation (rain or humidity) — had the biggest impact on penguin chick weight variations over time! Read more

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The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team

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This entry was posted in Animals, Awareness, Nature, Phenomenon.