Jul 12 2016

Adélie Penguins: A new Species to Keep an eye On

Along the rocky coastline and ice-covered waters of the Antarctic, lives the penguin species Adélie. These waddling fellows can be distinguished from their counterparts by a vivid white ring around their eyes. Adélies make up a large portion of the penguins in the Antarctic region, but recent studies have their numbers dwindling by up to 60% in the next century (Cimino et al., 2016).


Stan Shebs [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Those who still refute the data backing climate change love to use snow days as a defense for their argument against its existence. Because the Earth can’t possibly be warming if there’s still snow, right? What they don’t understand is that with climate change, comes abnormal weather patterns. The whole natural scheme of things is being thrown off, delaying seasonal cycles and creating erratic precipitation patterns (Parry 2012). Global data have shown that, despite the occurrence of snowfall and chill, the global surface temperature has been increasing (NASA).

By Jason Auch (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0386) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jason Auch (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0386) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Climate change and its weird seasonal shifts are putting stress on the Adélies’ instinctive nesting patterns. Adélies only nest on bare, dry land, but higher levels of precipitation and snowmelt, due to novel climate, create large pools of water, which can drown the chicks (Cimino et al., 2016). The rising temperatures, while undoubtedly harmful to most all Arctic life, were initially thought to be a benefit to the Adélie, due to their nesting requirements. But the temperatures have begun to rise outside of even their habitable range. The sea surface temperatures, along with the sea ice concentrations are not at the levels they need to be to sustain the large number of Adélies in the region.


Most everyone probably learned in the third grade or so what the three things most essential to survival are: water, food, and shelter. We already covered their shelter situation, and anyone who knows how to read a map can see that they are not suffering from lack of water—the Antarctic ice sheet contributes about 61% of all fresh water on earth, and it’s melting!—but what about their food supply? The Adélie’s two main sources of food, the silverfish and the krill, have both been experiencing declines due to the same Antarctic sea changes. Both the silverfish and krill require specific water temperatures for nesting and survival, but with the increase in temperatures and fluctuating sea ice concentrations, they’ve had to migrate elsewhere (WWF). This leaves the Adélies to find new food sources that are in ample supply. When a food source leaves an area, many species move with it, but Adélies have specific nesting patterns that limit their migratory flexibility (NPR).


The Adélies’ struggle to adapt is just one of many examples of species around the world struggling with the ramifications of climate change. The process of evolution is designed to allow species to adapt to changes in their environments, but the speed at which climate change is changing things is much faster than most species can adapt to.



Parry, Wynne. “Climate Change Throws Nature’s Timing Out of Whack.”LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 11 July 2016.

All Things Considered. “Adelie Penguins In Danger.” NPR. NPR, 3 July 2016. Web. 11 July 2016.

WWF. “Adélie Penguins.” – WWF UK. WWF, n.d. Web. 11 July 2016.

Fretwell; H. D. Pritchard; et al. (31 July 2012). “Bedmap2: improved ice bed, surface and thickness datasets for Antarctica”

NASA. “Climate Change Evidence: How Do We Know?” Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. NASA, n.d. Web. 11 July 2016.

Cimino, Megan A., Heather J. Lynch, Vincent S. Saba, and Matthew J. Oliver. “Projected Asymmetric Response of Adélie Penguins to Antarctic Climate Change.” Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 29 June 2016. Web. 11 July 2016.


One response so far

One Response to “Adélie Penguins: A new Species to Keep an eye On”

  1.   Kerri Wrighton 20 Jul 2016 at 1:41 am

    Nice job on this blog post! I think a lot of us have seen those pictures of a penguin or a polar bear floating on a piece of ice in the middle of the icy waters, without much other land or shelter near them. Its one of those images that is made to create a reaction, and the truth behind those pictures is very sad. Even though we are not at the time where all of the ice has melted and the animals resort to one small piece of ice for habitat, climate change has made a hostile environment for animals that require specific temperatures and locations for survival, like the Adelie penguins. Most of the time global warming is just thought as warming, but it does come with many different weather patterns that are not natural. I found an article that also discussed the penguin’s problems with climate change, particularly the ice that they nest on. For these penguins, they use a lot of the water to efficiently hunt and bring the food back to their chicks. With the areas they are in, sea ice is increasing, which is bad for their ratio of water to ice. Because of wind patterns, sea ice has been blown to different areas, which gives some structures too much ice, which also reduces the amount of water in a certain area. They have less water, which makes hunting more difficult and the sea ice is too much for their needs of nesting, which also promotes a problem. I think it is also a good point to talk about the food chain, because one small change in their prey’s population can have devastating effects on them. Since the krill have moved locations, do you know if research has suggested they are hunting something else, or are there still enough right now for the animals to survive on? And also, do you think their population is decreasing because of general climate changes, or because of the challenges they have nesting?

    Here is the link for the article I found: https://nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=126692&org=NSF