The next victim of global warming are the Emperor penguins. With increasing global temperature, sea ice is melting and penguins are losing their main source of food. As a result, some breeds of penguins may ultimately become extinct by the end of this century from Antarctica, warn scientists.
According to the research, led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and published this week in Global Change Biology, pairs of breeding Emperor Penguins of Terre Adelie region of Antarctica could shrink by as much as 80 percent by the end of this century. This particular breed has been featured in the famous Hollywood movies like "March of the Penguins" and "Happy Feet."
As one of the reasons for their extinction, scientists have pointed towards the increasing melting of large chunks of ice and dwindling population of fish, shrimp and krill, the main food of the penguins.
"Our best projections show roughly 500 to 600 breeding pairs remaining by the year 2100," said Stephanie Jenouvrier, a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and lead author of the study, in a news release. "Today, the population size is around 3,000 breeding pairs."
"Over the last century, we have already observed the disappearance of the Dion Islets penguin colony, close to the West Antarctic Peninsula," Jenouvrier adds. "In 1948 and the 1970s, scientists recorded more than 150 breeding pairs there, by 1999, the population was down to just 20 pairs, and in 2009, it had vanished entirely."
Meanwhile, a different study published this month found similar bad news for the chistrap penguin. According to a new report, thirty-six percent of chinstrap penguins - named after the black feather strip that runs across their white chins - have been extinct in last 20 years.
"Actually, in the '90s it was thought that the climate change would favor the chinstrap penguin, because this species prefers sea waters without ice, unlike the Adélie penguin, which prefers the ice pack," study researcher Andres Barbosa of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid told LiveScience.
"A more responsible use of the energy and the fossil fuels is necessary to preserve the planet and Antarctica," Barbosa told LiveScience.