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Waak waak waak

08 Jul 2020 | Science Notes

Penguins can’t seem to get a break. And they’re funny-looking. Admit it. Graceful under water, yes. But funny on land. And apparently they’re having trouble because of all the… what? Warming? Open water? Laughter? No. Ice. Evidently it gets in the way.

According to a study published on the AAAS’s Science Advances, penguins party in open water. Of course the scientists didn’t say it like that; they’d never get published if they did. Rather, they sesquipedaliate that “ice-free environments enhance, not deteriorate, foraging efficiencies and breeding success.” In plain English, they get more food and raise more kids. And you’ll never guess why. So we’ll tell you.

By tagging 175 penguins, doubtless a tedious and smelly process, the researchers discovered that penguins swim better than they walk, never mind fly. Aka “In an ice-free season, penguins traveled by swimming rather than walking, leading to larger foraging areas, shorter trip durations, and lower energy expenditure than three ice-covered seasons. Freed from the need to find cracks for breathing, dive durations decreased, and more krill were captured per unit dive time, which may also be associated with phytoplankton blooms and increased krill density in the sunlit ice-free water. Consequently, adult body mass, chick growth rates, and breeding success increased.”

So if we stop global warming, and the ice comes back, we’ll kill the penguins. You just can’t win with climate change. And there’s nothing funny about it. Except the bit with the laughing gas.

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