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Giant Iceberg is Impacting the Adelie Penguin Population, But Doesn't Mean They're Dead

First Posted: Feb 17, 2016 08:07 AM EST
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An immense iceberg settled at the coast of Antarctica six years ago, and may be impacting Adelie penguins. Scientists have found that the increasing ice may have cut down on the food source of animals and altered forever their habitat.

Since the iceberg first landed in 2010, there's been a massive decline in the penguin population. It's gone from 100,000 to 200,000 to just 5,520 pairs. This decline, in particular, is mostly to be blamed on the lack of access to open water and food.

While it's certain that the penguins are missing, there's no proof that the penguins are dead. In fact, some experts believe that there may be a less horrific explanation for the missing birds; it's very likely that the birds picked up and moved rather than staying to await starvation.

"Just because there are a lot fewer birds observed doesn't automatically mean the ones that were there before have perished," said Michelle LaRue, a penguin population researcher at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis who wasn't involved in the study, in an interview with Live Science. "They easily could have moved elsewhere, which would make sense if nearby colonies are thriving."

It's true that the population in the specific location has dropped. However, this could just be because the population has simply moved elsewhere. With that said, there is the possibility that some of the penguins have died due to a lack of food.

Either way, more evidence is needed before any firm conclusions about the state of the penguins as a whole are drawn.

The new study was published in the journal Antarctic Science.

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