As Antarctica loses reportedly 160 billion metric tons of ice per year, the fate of the penguins hangs in the balance. Their habitat is shrinking rapidly and unlike other losses of land, there is little that we can do to prevent this. Global climate change is causing mass ice sheet melt and ultimately, humans caused the change in temperatures. With these worrying statistics, it came as a surprise to scientists who have completed a new study showing that penguins are adapting to their changing environment. It was thought that these creatures would stubbornly stay in their habitat and as the ice melted, they too would be lost to this continent. In reality the penguins are actually on the move.
In the surrounding areas of Pointe Geologie in Antarctica satellite footage has been taken and has shown that Emperor penguins are changing their colony spot each year. Scientists from the University of Minnesota were able to identify six instances where penguins had relocated over a period of three years Since the 1970s the penguin population around the area surveyed has halved. Although this is worrying, the fact that the penguins seem to be able to adapt and change their patterns gives hope that they can maintain their species without a lot of human intervention. It has even been suggested that the population has not decline, but simply moved from the traditional breeding area to other places in Antarctica. Another study showed that these penguins were moving to more stable ice shelves. The penguins have been observed climbing steep ice shelf walls just to find a good breeding spot.
This research is preliminary but promising. More research is needed to better understand this behaviour so we can help conserve the species. The species that learn to adapt have the best chance in surviving climate change.