One way climate change affects species is by forcing migrations, and animals that depend on ice—of which penguins are a notable example—often face more immediate impacts than others.
The march of the emperor penguins, in which they return to the same spot to breed each year, has been altered by necessity: ice breeding grounds disappeared in the face of climate change, and the penguins changed their routes accordingly.
In some ways, this is an encouraging observation. Penguins are resilient, and have shown themselves able to adapt to climate change by altering their behaviour.
But this is also further evidence of the widespread, immediate, and negative impact of climate change on animals. Another example comes from the iconic – and disappearing—polar bear. As ice melts, polar bears have great difficulty hunting and must migrate onto dry land; combine this with human-forced grizzly range expansion north, and you have “pizzly” bears, or an unusual hybrid between the two species. Hybrids such as pizzlies are often infertile, and are certainly a threat to biodiversity.
On a lighter note, this study on penguin range shifts is one example of another growing research trend, totally unrelated to climate change: poop-related studies. Penguins live on ice (which is white) and poop often (their poop is black), so researchers used satellite images of the poop to capture range shifts! Another poop-related study came out of paleoanthropology: recently discovered Neanderthal coprolites (fossil feces) revealed that they enjoyed an omnivorous diet, eating lots of berries, leaves and nuts in addition to meat. A third described how one species of spider cleverly poses as bird poop to avoid predation!
Stay tuned for more climate-related advances, poop-related studies, and perhaps another rare gem that combines the two.
In the face of rising temperatures, emperor penguins in Antarctica may be forced to find new breeding grounds instead of returning to the same spot to mate year after year, new research finds.