Global warming could drive king penguins into extinction in the next 20 years, a new study warns. Research indicates that a rise in ocean temperature of just 0.47 degrees—well below the forecast—would reduce the animals' critical supply of lantern fish and krill, reports the Los Angeles Times. The 8-year study found even a minimal change in temperature drastically increased penguin mortality because of effects on their food supply.
The giant penguins battled back from the brink of extinction once before, in the 19th century, after they were nearly wiped out by sailors who used their fat for stove fuel. "Their life histories evolved around ice," said one expert. "Any change in temperature that turns ice to water has huge impacts." Another warned that the research is also bad news for humans. "If a population this robust starts to decline, our worries will go way beyond penguins," he said.