Courtesy VivaAntarcticaAs Americans, I’m sure we call all agree that regicide is awesome. I mean, we don’t generally participate in it, but we appreciate it. And, say what you will of the French, they have a sympathetic tradition, which makes the alarmist tone of recent findings out of the French Academy of Sciences somewhat surprising: it seems that the guillotine blade of global warming is slowly descending toward the gilded necks of the king penguins.
Despite what we might wish, though, the king penguins are not actually being decapitated. The French (and Norwegian) research team, in fact, began to notice a strong correlation between ocean temperatures, and king penguin breeding success. It makes sense when you think about it—monarchies have always been vulnerable to breeding issues.
Tracking a portion of the 2 million strong population of king penguins on the Crozet Islands, the researchers observed that the penguins were having to travel further and further from their colonies to forage for food (usually between 300 and 600 km, and sometimes as far as 2000 km). The reason for this, scientists believe, is that many marine organisms prosper only at lower ocean temperatures, and king penguins—living at the top of the food chain—depend on these organisms for sustenance. As the waters near their islands warm, nearby food becomes scarce, and the less food the penguins can bring back to their chicks, the smaller their chance of survival becomes. According to the team’s model, an increase in just .26 degrees Celsius will lead to a 9 percent decrease in king penguins’ survival rate.
Bad news if you’re a penguin. Or if you’re into penguins. Or… Maybe I do understand why the French are so nervous about the decline of king penguins—after all, who would better understand what would probably take their place.