Emperor penguins appear to adapt to changing climate, study finds

By Elizabeth Learned,

A study has found that emperor penguins appear to be figuring out ways to adapt to the changing climate.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that over a three-year period, there were six instances in which emperor penguins changed the sites where they would breed.

It had previously been thought that these penguins kept to the same breeding grounds, but satellite images have shown that they don’t return to the location where they bred before.

The results of the study were presented by lead author Michelle LaRue at the IDEACITY conference in Toronto and the study will be published in the Ecography journal.

"Our research showing that colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviors we thought we understood about emperor penguins," lead author Michelle LaRue said. "If we assume that these birds come back to the same locations every year, without fail, these new colonies we see on satellite images wouldn't make any sense. These birds didn't just appear out of thin air—they had to have come from somewhere else."

She said that it looks like the penguins move from colony to colony, a practice, which LaRue noted they planned to continue to monitor in order to fully understand why they do that.

Satellite images has helped in studying the penguins, especially in Pointe Géologie, where it was previously long believed that the emperor population was falling, rather than just moving from place to place.

"We've just learned something unexpected, and we should rethink how we interpret colony fluctuations," LaRue said.

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