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Giant Antarctic Iceberg Isolated and Killed 150,000 Adélie Penguins [VIDEO]

Feb 14, 2016 03:00 PM EST
Penguin Colony
A giant fallen iceberg has isolated a penguin colony of 160,000 in Antarctica, forcing them to trek farther for food.
(Photo : Flickr: David Stanley)

A group of 160,000 Adélie penguins have been isolated in one area of Antarctica ever since an iceberg the size of Rome came crashing down in 2010. This forces them to travel upward of 60 kilometers to the sea for food. This strenuous trek has taken a devastating toll on the population, killing as many as 150,000 since 2011, according to a new study from the Climate Change Research Centre at Australia's University of New South Wales. 

"Over the past five years the regional changes triggered by iceberg B09B have led to an order of magnitude decline in Adélie penguin numbers and catastrophic breeding failure in comparison to the first counts undertaken by Mawson a century ago," lead author Dr. Kerry-Jayne Wilson of the West Coast Penguin Trust, said in the university's news release.

The colossal iceberg, B09B, measures some 2,900 square kilometers. Before it cascaded through Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay the iceberg had been floating close to the coast.

"This has provided a natural experiment to investigate the impact of iceberg stranding events and sea ice expansion along the East Antarctic coast," researchers wrote in their study, recently published in the journal Antarctic Science.

However, scientists warn that if the giant iceberg isn't dislodged or broken apart the colony will be wiped out within 20 years.

"It's eerily silent now," Chris Turney, a climate change professor with the Australasian Antarctic Expedition told the Sydney Morning Herald. "The ones that we saw at Cape Denison were incredibly docile, lethargic, almost unaware of your existence. The ones that are surviving are clearly struggling. They can barely survive themselves, let alone hatch the next generation. We saw lots of dead birds on the ground ... it's just heartbreaking to see."

Furthermore, researchers say another colony living just eight kilometers from the coast of Commonwealth Bay is thriving. This confirms B09B was responsible for the Adélie penguin population decline.

"They don't migrate," Turney added. "They're stuck there. They're dying."

Related Articles 

Warmer Waters Cause Overlap Between Adelie and Gentoo Penguins In Antarctic

Arctic Penguins: How Do They Remain Ice-Free When Diving Into Sub-Zero Waters?

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