Skip to main content

U of M study: 'March of Penguins' may be wrong, birds adapting

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

New research from the University of Minnesota says the future of emperor penguins is perhaps not as bleak as previously believed.

Researchers have long thought that emperor penguins, the only penguins to live on sea ice, were philopatric, or returned to the same location to nest year after year.

This habit, along with climate change that's melting sea ice, has led researchers to say there has been a decline in the number of penguins in the Pointe Géologie colony in Antarctica. That's the group that was famously featured in the documentary, "March of the Penguins."

But new research from the U of M suggests the penguins have moved around, in effect adapting to changing environments – which seems to contradict an assertion in the critically acclaimed movie that the penguins are gravely endangered by climate change.

Researchers in this new study tracked a "climate-driven march" by examining the penguins' poop stains using high-resolution satellite imagery.

“Our research showing that colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviors we thought we understood about emperor penguins,” said University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering researcher and the study's lead author Michelle LaRue said, according to the release.

Before seeing these satellite images, researchers thought Pointe Géologie was isolated and penguins never moved to other breeding grounds, but U of M researchers found six instances in three years in which emperor penguins didn't return to the same place to nest – meaning that it's possible those penguins didn't die, but just moved away from Pointe Géologie, the release says.

Researchers also found plenty of colonies that were within easy traveling distance for the penguins and a newly discovered colony on the Antarctic Peninsula that may represent the relocation of penguins, the release says.

“If we assume that these birds come back to the same locations every year, without fail, these new colonies we see on satellite images wouldn’t make any sense. These birds didn’t just appear out of thin air — they had to have come from somewhere else. This suggests that emperor penguins move among colonies," LaRue said in the release.

LaRue adds that this discovery is important to conserve the species. The U of M's study will be published in an upcoming issue of Ecography.

Other studies have also shown how penguins are adapting to climate change. The British Antarctic Survey found that emperor penguins were climbing 100-foot ice walls to find stable ice shelves to breed as sea ice retreats, Nature World News reports.

Next Up

Omar Samuels

Rep. Ilhan Omar defeats Don Samuels in contentious primary

Unofficial results for one of Minnesota's most-watched primary races are in.

Ambulance Hennepin Healthcare

Boy, 14, critical after accidental shooting at Minneapolis apartment

Police say the shooting happened during a gathering at an apartment.

Screen Shot 2022-08-09 at 3.25.49 PM

Charges: Man caused Burnsville building fire because girlfriend was late

The alleged arson fire displaced around 50 residents.

Famous dave granite city

Famous Dave's, Granite City owner sold for $200 million

The owner of Famous Dave's, BBQ Holdings, is based in Minnetonka.

Alanna McLean

Appeal to find missing northern Minnesota woman

Alanna McLean was last seen this past weekend.

image

Minnesota reaches 55 confirmed cases of monkeypox

Nearly 9,000 cases have been confirmed nationwide.

derek chauvin

$1.45M payout for correctional officers prevented from guarding Derek Chauvin

The officers were reportedly ordered to avoid Derek Chauvin while he was in jail.

DSD_6142

Palm Springs residents: Divert the Mississippi to solve our drought problems

Should the southwest have some of the Mississippi River?

Image from iOS (10)

Minneapolis tries to spruce up street barriers with motivational messages

Police said the barriers will be in place through the beginning of the fall.

BearTracks3

MnDOT debuts driverless shuttle in White Bear Lake

This is one of several self-driving pilot programs MnDOT is working on.

Related