Happy feet: Antarctic penguins see a rise in population during years with less sea ice

Recent years has seen Antarctica experienced a steady increase in sea ice, even as the Arctic has seen a marked decrease.


It seems that Antarctica's Adelie penguins are happier when there is less sea ice, a new study has found.

The results of the study have been published on 24 June in the journal Science Advances.

According to a report in SciTech Daily, recent years has seen Antarctica experienced a steady increase in sea ice, even as the Arctic has seen a marked decrease. However, with climate change, even Antarctica is projected to see a decline in sea ice with consequences in store for maritime habitat for the organisms that call the place home.

The report adds that Adelie penguins, which are the most common in Antarctica, have been known to see population increases during years when sea ice is sparse and have shown breeding failures during years when sea ice has seen marked growth.

Researchers, till now, did not know the reason behind the same.

According to a report published in Phys.org, researchers from Japan's National Institute of Polar Research electronically tagged 175 penguins with GPS devices, accelerometers and video cameras across four seasons with varying sea ice conditions to track them and study their behaviour.

 Happy feet: Antarctic penguins see a rise in population during years with less sea ice

Penguins see population increases during years when sea ice is sparse and have shown breeding failures during years when sea ice has seen marked growth.

Lead researcher Yuuki Watanabe said that the penguins are happier with less sea ice, adding, "This may seem counter-intuitive, but the underlying mechanism is actually quite simple."

According to Watanabe, ice-free conditions allow the penguins to travel more by swimming than by walking.

"For penguins, swimming is a whopping four times faster than walking. They may be sleek in the water but are pretty slow waddlers overland," Watanabe added.

According to the Phys.org report, when there is less ice, penguins can dive anywhere they want. The process is more energy and time efficient and expands their hunting range and most likely reduces competition with other penguins for prey. It also allows them to catch more krill. Less ice means more sunlight entering water, leading to larger blooms of plankton, which krill feed.


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