Penguin Population In Antarctica Not Close Enough, Researchers Say

First Posted: Apr 26, 2017 05:07 AM EDT

There are roughly 12 million flightless penguins roaming in Antarctica. While the number seemed massive, scientists say that this is not close enough.

In a comprehensive survey of the Antarctic penguins, researchers were able to calculate the number of each of the five penguin species (emperor, Adelie, chinstrap, gentoo and macroni) found south of the globe. According to USA Today, the first ever "State of Antarctic Penguin" report was finally completed after two decades. Ron Naveen, who was tasked of compiling the said report, had one job for all of that given time. He had to count the penguins.

Naveen had been going to Antarctica for over 30 years. But for two decades, he had been counting flightless birds in one of the iciest regions of the planet. While Naveen spent only about six years in Antarctica in real time, he said that counting the penguins is actually important in understanding climate change. He shared that the penguin population is the best way to track the impact of climate change and ocean health.

CBS News reported that two species of penguins were found to be in severe population decline. Numbers of the Adelie and chinstrap penguins have lowered over the years, but there are other species that seemed to be adapting. Gentoo penguins, in particular, appeared to be adapting well to the changing circumstances in the Antarctic.

Researchers believe that the different ways these penguins reacted and adapted to their environment lay in their food supplies. Gentoo penguins were able to supplement their diets by eating more fish. Adelie and chinstrap penguins, on the other hand, still get most of their nourishment from krill.

There was also the issue of reproduction. While Emperor and Adelie penguins can breed around the entire continent, chinstrap, gentoo and macaroni penguins are restricted to the northern parts of the Antarctic Peninsula.

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