January 27, 2009

Emperor penguins imperiled by melting ice

U.S. researchers say Antarctica's emperor penguins could be extinct in parts of the region by the end of the 21st century.

Biologists with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution say mathematical models suggest climate change and the resulting loss of sea ice could shrink the large penguin colony in Terre Adelie from 3,000 down to 400 breading pairs before the end of this century.

Researchers said sea ice serves as a platform for penguins and as a grazing ground for krill, tiny crustaceans that are a food source for fish, seals, whales and penguins.

The report is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.