Penguin Personalities Cause Birds to Adapt to Climate Change

Scientists have taken a closer look at penguins and have found that a bird's individual personality may be among the factors that could improve its chances at successfully coping with environmental stressors. (Photo : John F. Cockrem, PhD)

Scientists have taken a closer look at penguins and have found that a bird’s individual personality may be among the factors that could improve its chances at successfully coping with environmental stressors. (Photo : John F. Cockrem, PhD)

The climate continues to change, causing animals to change their lifestyles in turn. Currently, the ability of many animal species to adapt is being put to the test. Now, though, researchers have taken a closer look at penguins and have found that a bird’s individual personality may be among the factors that could improve its chances at successfully coping with environmental stressors.

According to the Audubon Society, nearly half of all North American bird species are severely threatened by shifts in climate. Not only that, but this threat reaches beyond just North America and could have similar effects on global bird populations. Continue reading

Emperor Penguins Might be Adapting to Climate Change

 (Photo : REUTERS/Martin Passingham )

Emperor penguins adapting to climate change better than expected, a new study suggests. (Photo : REUTERS/Martin Passingham )

University of Minnesota researchers and colleagues have found that penguins are behaving in ways that could help them adapt to a warmer Earth.

Previous research had assumed that emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) were faithful to the nesting grounds or were philopatric. Satellite images now show that these penguins aren’t returning to the same location to breed.

The study team found six instances of penguins changing breeding grounds in a span of three years. Continue reading

Deaths attributed directly to climate change cast pall over penguins

Rain wets the down of a chick still too young to have the waterproofing its parent has. Credit: D Boersma/U of Washington

Rain wets the down of a chick still too young to have the waterproofing its parent has. Credit: D Boersma/U of Washington

Too big for parents to sit over protectively, but still too young to have grown waterproof feathers, downy penguin chicks exposed to drenching rain can struggle and die of hypothermia in spite of the best efforts of their concerned parents. And during extreme heat, chicks without waterproofing can’t take a dip in cooling waters as adults can. Continue reading

Granite Island penguins facing decimation

Granite Island Penguin Centre manager Dorothy Longden with a Little Penguin. Picture: Brooke Whatnall Source: adelaidenow

Granite Island Penguin Centre manager Dorothy Longden with a Little Penguin. Picture: Brooke Whatnall Source: adelaidenow

A COLONY of Granite Island’s fairy penguins will be bred in captivity in a desperate attempt to save the birds from extinction.

Flinders University plans to construct a multimillion-dollar biological sustainability centre at its campus over the next year where it can house, breed and release the native penguins – a key tourist attraction at Victor Harbor – back to Granite Island.

The university is in the process of obtaining a permit from the SA Environment Department to breed and release the animals whose population, according to yearly surveys, has crashed from 1548 in 2001 to just 26 on Granite Island last year.

Flinders University researchers are seeking corporate sponsors and community support to raise funds for more widespread and definitive research into what is behind the decline in penguin populations.

University School of Biological Studies Professor Sonia Kleindorfer said the breeding program would be pointless if they could not pinpoint the reasons for the penguins’ disappearance and fix the problem.

“We don’t want to sit idly by while we have the opportunity to intervene and set up a breeding operation,” she said.

“It would be foolish to wait for an answer (on the cause).

“We need to pursue all options at the moment.”

The breeding program would retrieve injured penguins undergoing rehabilitation on Granite Island to make sure the penguins they breed are suitable for the island’s habitat.

Granite Island Penguin Centre co-ordinator Dorothy Longden expects a survey in August will show the resident penguin population to be similar to last year’s.

She is desperate to see a breeding program begin and said the decline in penguins has hit tourism. Ms Longden said the centre had reduced tours and cut staff numbers.

“We’re basically using about four guides at a time,” she said. “We can’t have 13 guides like we used to have.” Dr Kleindorfer said feral cats, marine predators such as New Zealand fur seals, diseases carried by domesticated animals and the abundance of fish stocks on which the penguins feed were all among possible causes for the drop in bird numbers.

She said about $150,000 to $200,000 was needed each year to conduct the proper research.

Dr Kleindorfer and Victor Harbor Mayor Graham Philp will host a Save the Granite Island Penguins fundraiser and awareness event on June 14 at McCracken Country Club.

source: couriermail.com.au

New Zealand penguin colony at risk from dogs

Dead dogs and dead penguins ( picture from penguin.net.nz )

Dead dogs and dead penguins ( picture from penguin.net.nz )

GREYMOUTH, New Zealand,  — A penguin colony in New Zealand is under threat due to a new bicycle path where dogs have mauled birds on three occasions, officials said.

The Karoro penguin colony in Greymouth, New Zealand, was about two dozen birds strong, said Mayor Tony Kokshoorn, who lives near the beach where the birds are situated. Since a bike path popular with dog owners was installed recently, three of the birds have been mauled by dogs whose owners walked them without a leash.

The city has pledged to patrol the pathway and issue dog owners who walk their dogs without a leash a $300 fine, the Greymouth Star newspaper said Tuesday.

Wildlife experts say the colony is under threat anytime a mature penguin dies because the eggs or chicks it was caring for will probably die as well, making it difficult for the colony to reproduce fast enough to sustain itself.

Source: upi.com

New evidence suggests some birds gave up flight to become better swimmers

Murres, which resemble flying penguins, have the highest wing-loading of any bird, which results in exceptionally high flight costs and could explain why Antarctic penguins have evolved flightlessness. Credit: Kyle H. Elliott.

Murres, which resemble flying penguins, have the highest wing-loading of any bird, which results in exceptionally high flight costs and could explain why Antarctic penguins have evolved flightlessness. Credit: Kyle H. Elliott.

An international team of wildlife researchers has found evidence to support the theory that some birds, such as penguins, lost the ability to fly because of adaptations that allowed for better swimming. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes the results of testing energy efficiency levels of birds that both fly and dive as compared to birds that have lost the ability to fly.

To gain a better understanding of the factors that led to flightlessness in some birds, the team traveled to two remote locations: Nanavuk, Canada and Middleton Island in Alaska. By attaching sensors to captured cormorants and murres, the team was able to measure energy efficiency in both species. Both kinds of birds are able to fly and both find prey by diving underwater and swimming. Cormorants use their webbed feet to maneuver underwater, while the murres use their wings.

In analyzing the data from the sensors, the researchers found that murres are relatively efficient swimmers—the amount of energy they burn is just 30 percent lower than that of similar sized penguins. In the air, however, things were quite different.

The birds set a new record for inefficiency—they burned 31 times more energy when flying than when sitting still—the highest ever seen in a bird. Studying murres is particularly important when looking to find why penguins lost the ability to fly because they are so similar to their non-flying cousins. Because of their coloring and body shape, they actually look like flying penguins.

The data shows, the researchers claim, that penguins and other flightless birds almost certainly lost the ability to fly as their swimming abilities grew stronger. You can’t have both, they note—becoming better at swimming causes wings to slowly morph into flippers, which of course won’t allow for flight.

They suggest that murres are at a crossroads—just good enough to get by in both the air and water. If the need arises to dive deeper, the team notes, the murres could also lose the ability to fly. On the other hand, if the need to avoid predators by flying away remains critical, they could become bet

Abstract
Flight is a key adaptive trait. Despite its advantages, flight has been lost in several groups of birds, notably among seabirds, where flightlessness has evolved independently in at least five lineages. One hypothesis for the loss of flight among seabirds is that animals moving between different media face tradeoffs between maximizing function in one medium relative to the other. In particular, biomechanical models of energy costs during flying and diving suggest that a wing designed for optimal diving performance should lead to enormous energy costs when flying in air.

Costs of flying and diving have been measured in free-living animals that use their wings to fly or to propel their dives, but not both. Animals that both fly and dive might approach the functional boundary between flight and nonflight. We show that flight costs for thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia), which are wing-propelled divers, and pelagic cormorants (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) (foot-propelled divers), are the highest recorded for vertebrates. Dive costs are high for cormorants and low for murres, but the latter are still higher than for flightless wing-propelled diving birds (penguins).

For murres, flight costs were higher than predicted from biomechanical modeling, and the oxygen consumption rate during dives decreased with depth at a faster rate than estimated biomechanical costs. These results strongly support the hypothesis that function constrains form in diving birds, and that optimizing wing shape and form for wing-propelled diving leads to such high flight costs that flying ceases to be an option in larger wing-propelled diving seabirds, including penguins.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Source: phys.org