150K 'Dead' Penguins Might Just Be Chilling Elsewhere

They may have only abandoned their colony: expert
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2016 11:05 AM CST
150K 'Dead' Penguins Might Just Be Chilling Elsewhere
Gentoo penguins stand on rocks in Antarctica.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

Troubled by the apparent deaths of 150,000 penguins since a Rhode Island-sized iceberg crashed into Antarctica in 2010? Good news: There might be an alternative explanation for their disappearance. No one has actually found the bodies of 150,000 Adélie penguins that vanished from a colony at Cape Denison after a grounded iceberg suddenly meant their food source was 40 miles away, reports Live Science. Given that carcasses don't decompose in Antarctica's climate, this suggests the penguins may have simply moved elsewhere—just as another colony did when an iceberg hit Ross Island in 2001.

"I do not know what happened to these birds, but no one does for certain," says penguin expert Michelle LaRue, who was not involved in the Antarctic Science study. "Just because there are a lot fewer birds observed doesn't automatically mean the ones that were there before have perished." She adds the penguins may have relocated to nearby colonies, which would make sense given that study researchers say a colony five miles from Cape Denison is "thriving." If the penguins did indeed die, LaRue says it's "hardly apocalyptic"; there were 7 million Adélie penguins in Antarctica as of 2011. (More Antarctica stories.)

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