The final time scientists visited the distant French island of Île aux Cochons within the Indian Ocean, they discovered greater than 2 million king penguins, together with 500,000 breeding pairs.
That was 1982, and it gave the island the excellence of being the most important such colony on this planet. However within the first complete new depend since then, researchers report in Antarctic Science that solely about 200,000 king penguins now inhabit the island.
Of these, about 60,000 have been in pairs, studies the BBC. The brand new numbers are based mostly on aerial photographs taken in 2015 and 2017 of the island, which sits between Antarctica and the tip of Africa, per the Guardian.
For now, researchers don’t have any clear reply on what explains the inhabitants plunge, although followup subject research may shed mild. “It’s utterly surprising, and significantly vital since this colony represented almost one third of the king penguins on this planet,” says lead writer Henri Weimerskirch of the Centre for Organic Research in Chize, France.
One concept revolves across the climate: A very sturdy El Niño within the late 1990s warmed regional waters and might need pushed penguin prey similar to fish and squid out of foraging vary lengthy sufficient to have devastating penalties on such a dense inhabitants, in response to a News launch.
These results may have been amplified in opposition to the bigger backdrop of local weather change basically, notes the Guardian. Different theories embody ailments similar to avian cholera, or the arrival of invasive species similar to rats or mice.
(On the flip aspect, researchers discovered a beforehand unknown colony of a unique kind of penguin.)
This text initially appeared on Newser: Greatest King Penguin Colony Sees a Catastrophic Drop
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