Climate change is killing penguin chicks from the world’s largest colony of Magellanic penguins, not just indirectly – by depriving them of food, as has been repeatedly documented for these and other seabirds – but directly as a result of drenching rainstorms and, at other times, heat, according to new findings from the University of Washington.
Too big for parents to sit over protectively, but still too young to have grown waterproof feathers, downy penguin chicks exposed to drenching rain can struggle and die of hypothermia in spite of the best efforts of their concerned parents. And during extreme heat, chicks without waterproofing can’t take a dip in cooling waters as adults can.
Various research groups have published findings on the reproductive repercussions from single storms or heat waves, events that individually are impossible to tie to climate change. The new results span 27 years of data collected in Argentina under the direction of Dee Boersma, UW biology professor, with the support of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the UW, the Office of Turismo in Argentina’s Chubut Province, the Global Penguin Society and the La Regina family. Boersma is lead author of a paper on the findings in the Jan. 29 issue of PLOS ONE.