Are Penguins Adapting to Climate Change?

Written by on January 9, 2014 in Marine Life

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Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef. Photo credit: richard ling via photopin cc.

Great Barrier Reef coral cores reveal 2011 flood damage
New research shows how river run-off from the 2011 floods damaged corals in the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Extreme rainfall and flood events around the Fitzroy River affect corals up to 50km away from the mouth of the river. Corals in the Great Barrier Reef provide detailed climate records — even better than records collected by satellites — going back almost 100 years. Researchers took meter-long cores of corals and found evidence of large floods in 2011, and in the 1950s and 1960s. Evidence of the 2011 flood found so far out from the river shows how sensitive the Southern Great Barrier Reef is to climate extremes.

New Study Finds Extreme Longevity in White Sharks
Most sharks are slow-growing and long-living animals, but new research reveals that great white sharks grow even slower and live even longer than previously thought. Researchers analyzed vertebrae from four females and four males from the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Using radiocarbon dating, they found that the largest male lived up to 73 years old and the largest female lived up to 40 years old. Growth rate, age of sexual maturity and overall lifespan are critical for sustainable management and conservation efforts. Previous studies of white sharks suggested that none of the examined sharks were older than 23 years. These findings “dramatically extend the maximum age and longevity of white sharks.” To learn more and see a cool video on ageing sharks, check out this article: Radiocarbon Dating Suggests White Sharks Can Live 70 Years and Longer.

Emperor penguin colony.

Emperor penguin colony. Photo credit: ianduffy via photopin cc.

Penguins scale sheer cliffs to defy climate change
New research suggests that emperor penguins may be able to adapt if rising temperatures melt their current sea-ice habitat. Emperor penguins establish breeding colonies on sea ice and researchers were concerned that as temperatures rise and sea ice melts, the penguins would be in trouble. Using satellite technology, researchers found that in unusually warm years, some colonies choose to breed on an ice shelf, which is much thicker and more stable. The challenge is that ice cliffs form at the edge of ice shelves that can be up to 60 meters high and researchers though the penguins were too clumsy to climb all the way up. They don’t yet know how the penguins climb up, but they do know that it is a sign of penguins adapting to a climate change. To learn more, check out this article: Antarctic emperor penguins may be adapting to warmer temperatures.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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