How An Iceberg Caused 150,000 Penguins To Die In Antarctica

PHOTO: FLPA / Martin Hale/REX Shutterstock
Since 2011, some 150,000 Adelie penguins living in Antarctica have died due to lack of food.

According to The Guardian, an iceberg the size of Rome crashed into the penguin's colony at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay in 2010, essentially land-locking the penguins. While the colony was once a few miles from fresh water, the penguins must now trek 60 kilometers (37 miles) for fish.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales' (UNSW) Climate Change Research Centre and New Zealand's West Coast Penguin Trust found that this longer walk made it difficult for the penguins to find food, which in turn had an adverse effect on their mating and breeding habits.

In February 2011, the Adelie penguin population was 160,000, but that number plunged to an estimated 10,000 by December 2013.

Researchers reported in a census taken in 2013 that "hundreds of abandoned eggs were noted, and the ground was littered with the freeze-dried carcasses of previous seasons' chicks."

Scientists have predicted that the colony, which has been there for 100 years, will be gone in 20 years unless the the giant iceberg (nicknamed B09B) is dislodged or the sea ice breaks up, giving the penguins easier access to water.

While this iceberg has only brought bad news for this particular Adelie penguin colony, it has helped another penguin colony only 8 km (nearly 5 miles) away, increasing their access to food. That colony is reportedly thriving, which has provided the scientists with "a natural experiment to investigate the impact of iceberg stranding events and sea ice expansion along the East Antarctic coast."

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