Climate change 'killing baby penguins' in Argentina, scientists say

New studies show what experts say is the direct consequence of global warming on Magellanic penguins in South America

A A A

Penguins in South America and Antarctica are struggling to cope with extreme environmental conditions linked to climate change, research has shown.

Two separate studies have been published which scientists say are evidence of the increasing plight felt by the animals as a direct result of global warming.

According to one of the projects, climate change is killing off chicks from the world's biggest colony of Magellanic penguins in Argentina.

The penguins' home at Punta Tombo in the south of the country has suffered from an increased rate of powerful rainstorms and blistering heatwaves.

In the one extreme, the chicks' thin, downy coats mean they struggle to cope and can often be abandoned when a heavy downpour hits the colony.

At the other end of the weather scale their lack of waterproofing means they cannot swim to cool off if it gets too hot.

Dr Ginger Rebstock, from the University of Washington, US - who took part in a 27 year-long study of the 400,000-strong Argentinian colony, said: “We're going to see years where almost no chicks survive if climate change makes storms bigger and more frequent during vulnerable times of the breeding season, as climatologists predict.”

During the course of the study, an average 65 per cent of chicks died each year, with some 40 per cent starving.

This photo issued by the University of Washington shows rain wetting the down of a Magellanic penguin chick (left) still too young to have the waterproofing properties of its parent's plumage (right) This photo issued by the University of Washington shows rain wetting the down of a Magellanic penguin chick (left) still too young to have the waterproofing properties of its parent's plumage (right) Climate change was blamed for an average 7 per cent of chick deaths, but in some years was the most common cause of death. In one year, 43 per cent of all chick deaths were attributed to climate change and in another 50 per cent.

Starvation and the weather were likely to interact increasingly as the climate changed, according to the researchers.

“Starving chicks are more likely to die in a storm,” said Professor Dee Boersma, also from the University of Washington, who led the study.

Meanwhile, at Ross Island in Antarctica, Adelie penguins are struggling to feed themselves as melting sea ice breaks away into giant icebergs.

Scientists have spent 13 years collecting data on the foraging ability of chick-rearing Adelie penguins, which are dependent on year-round sea ice.

They found that under “normal” conditions they were able to cope with changes in sea ice concentrations.

But the appearance of giant icebergs reduced their chances of catching fish prey. How well they would be able to survive if such conditions became more common was unknown.

“If the frequency of such extreme events increases, then it will become very hard to predict how penguin populations will buffer future sea ice changes,” said lead researcher Dr Amelie Lescroel, from the Centre d'Ecologie Fontionnelle et Evolutive in France.

Both studies appear in the latest edition of the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.

Additional reporting by PA

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week