Galapagos Penguins and Global Warming = Extinction
September 2, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The Global Climate change has been a hot topic since the release of Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth. Debates have swirled regarding the cause, yet it is undeniable that weather patterns have changed and we are seeing more extreme weather – both Japan and New York saw their hottest summers on record. The climate change has been touted as the cause from flooding in Pakistan to crop failure in China. Yet one of the smallest and most adorable victims of global warming are Galapagos Penguins.
The Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is the most northerly occurring of all the penguins. Endemic to the Galapagos Islands at approximately 14 inches in height it is smaller and more duck-like than its southern cousins of the Antarctic. Adult penguins have a bluish-black head, back and flippers when new. Older worn feathers, dull to a brown color. Their underside is white with the exception of a black line along the side and scatter feathers on the chest.
During years with the El Nino effect the warming of the sea surface temperature effectively blocks the cold water currents from coming up the coast of South America. With the lack of these currents, the Penguins food supplies are drastically reduced and Galapagos Penguins postpone breeding entirely to avoid starvation. During the 1982-1983 El Nino 77% of the Galapagos Penguins died of starvation.
Though they can mate year round the Galapagos Penguin’s breeding is stimulated by the sea surface temperatures. When the temperatures reach 75 F (24 C) it corresponds to the arrival of the nutrient rich waters from the Humboldt Current and an abundance of food.
Of the planet’s 18 species of Penguins 12 are on the IUCN World Conservation Red List of Threatened Species – many are like the Galapagos Penguin and are considered endangered. If global water temperatures continue to rise they will become extinct this century.