Shrinking sea ice habitat is impacting the population of emperor penguins in Antarctica
Decades of research on emperor penguins has shown that shrinking sea ice habitat is impacting the species population. In August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to list the species as 'threatened' under the Endangered Species Act.
Posted November 18, 2021
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Mockbee
An emperor penguin bows its head. Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) are the largest of all penguin species. These flightless animals live on the Antarctic ice and in the frigid surrounding waters.
Emperor penguins, a quintessential Antarctic species, may be in trouble due to their shrinking sea ice habitat.
In August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to list the emperor penguin as 'threatened' under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA, which passed in 1973, is designed to protect and help reestablish threatened species and the ecosystems on which they depend. The law is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Photo Credit: Paul Ponganis
Emperor penguin adults attending to their chicks at Cape Crozier, Ross Island, Antarctica. Dr. Paul Ponganis (University of California-San Diego Scripps Instiution of Oceanography) and his research team study penguins' diving behavior. Emperors can dive to depths of 500 meters for five to 12 minutes at a time. Read about this research in The Antarctic Sun.
Following decades of research by international teams of penguin researchers, studies have shown that urgent climate action is needed to protect the species. Emperor penguins, whose population trends can illustrate the impacts of climate changes, rely on sea ice for breeding and raising their chicks. However, diminishing sea ice is causing the populations towards extinction.
Photo Credit: Greg Neri
The emperor penguin is the largest of all penguins. The Antarctic Conservation Act, which is U.S. law, prohibits people from touching/interfering with the wildlife without a permit. However, if humans sit quietly, the birds will often approach the humans with great curiosity.