Thursday, October 15, 2009

Emperor Penguins Marching To Extinction?

The October issue of Oceanus arrived today - in print - and is now on the current browsing rack by our front door. Oceanus can be read online, of course, and it is a lovely web site. But the print magazine draws attention to new research and concerns that you might otherwise miss. The October cover shows brilliant shades of red and pink, a harmless dye dumped into a stream atop the Greenland ice sheet to track water flow through cracks in the ice, slicking the bottom of the glacier and hastening its demise into the North Atlantic. Inside, there are many other captivating photos and stories, including the worrisome conclusion that melting sea ice could reduce the Terre Adelie penguin colony from its present size of 3,000 to only 400 breeding pairs by the end of the century [from a study published online PNAS Jan. 26, 2009]. An enduring image from the documentary March of the Penguins is of the thousands of male penguins huddled in a mass, sheltering eggs from blasting, frigid winds -- survival dependent on having enough individuals creating that collective incubation zone. Declining numbers can't be good for this collaborative strategy of reproductive success.

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