In 2010, a colossal iceberg dubbed B09B crashed into a glacier in Commonwealth Bay, in Antarctica, leaving a major penguin colony without sea access. Since then, about 150,000 Adélie penguins mysteriously vanished after the iceberg grounding, and no one knows their whereabouts.
While alarmists have advanced the idea that the penguins must have starved to death since the species feeds on krill which is found in the sea, a recent study shows that there’s no evidence that the missing birds died. So far, no one has found 150,000 carcasses in eastern Antarctica.
Researchers believe that the birds simply moved on to other places to find food. This was the case with another grounded colony of Adélie penguins in 2001. After an iceberg landlocked them they simply moved to other areas until the ice disappeared.
Michelle LaRue, a penguin expert with the University of Minnesota who didn’t co-author the latest study, explained that a lower number of birds in the area does not necessarily mean that the rest have died. The researcher noted that nearby penguin colonies are thriving, so this may mean that the stranded penguins may now have a new home.
According to the recent study, the misplaced penguins must have traveled over 37 miles from their original breeding grounds on Cape Denison to look for food. But traveling so far away is not good for baby chicks because they cannot store as many calories as their parents for the long journey. As a result, the colony steadily shrank to about 10,000 penguins in 2011.
The authors of the study, which was published earlier this month in Antarctic Science, believe that the colony will be gone in two decades if the glacier is still there.
Chris Turney, co-author of the study and researcher at the the University of New South Wales Australia, said that what his team found in the area previously populated by the 150,000 Adélie penguins was ‘heartbreaking.’ Researchers have found dead chicks, abandoned eggs, and a place awfully quiet.
Nevertheless, study authors dismissed the idea that the colony simply died off because the animals’ bodies couldn’t have decomposed in Antarctica’s harsh environment. On the continent, researchers and explorers still find frozen carcasses that are centuries old.
“I do not know what happened to these birds, but no one does for certain,”
Still, he acknowledged that the mysterious disappearance of such a large number of penguins in such a short time is ‘really interesting.’
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