Who doesn't just love penguins?
31 Mayo 2018 13:20
Penguins are one of the most beloved bird species, and we can certainly see why if we examine them closely. With their distinct gait, a look that seems like they're wearing a tuxedo, and a comical, easy-to-anthropomorphise personality, people all over the planet love penguins.
They are flightless, aquatic birds that you can find almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere. Despite what you may know, penguins aren't only in the coldest part of the hemisphere and particularly Antarctica. Many species of penguin are in the hemisphere's temperate zone; the only species of penguin to live in the Northern Hemisphere, the Galapagos penguin, in a region near the equator.
Despite being called 'aquatic', penguins spend half their time on land and the other half in the water. After hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, their wings turned into flippers, giving them their trademark wobble and inability to fly. Most penguins eat fish, squid, and krill, or other forms of food that they can find while swimming.
Researchers recently discovered a gigantic 'mega-colony' of penguins that hosts more than 1.5 million of the birds. This colony is in the Weddell Sea, on the Danger Islands, which are located on the eastern Antarctic Peninsula. It is a very remote part of the planet, and scientists were motivated to investigate after seeing satellite images of the large avian colony. Once there, with the help of drones and through their own counting, they discovered 751,527 penguin pairs.
Scientists are saying that this kind of colony indicates that it's a safe haven from climate change, and humans should do their best to conserve and protect it. 'This was an incredible experience, finding and counting so many penguins,' Tom Hart said, one of the international researchers from the University of Oxford. 'The size of these colonies makes them regionally important and makes the case for expanding the proposed Weddell Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA) to include the Danger Islands. More than that, I think it highlights the need for better protection of the West Antarctic Peninsula, where we are seeing declines.'
They estimate that this particular colony has been more or less the same since the late 1950s. The size of this MPA is gargantuan at 1.8 million square kilometres — about five times the span of Germany. This would forbid all fishing activities in this broad region, protecting the penguin colony as well as other marine life that is endangered by human actions, like blue and killer whales and seals. This would allow the ecosystem there to function as normal without interference.
Climate change and overfishing are the leading causes of endangered marine life in the poles and elsewhere on the planet. There are recent reports that the king penguin, for example, could be wiped out completely by the end of this century if we don't take actions to immediately combat the dire consequences of climate change.