This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the emperor penguin – yes, the one youve seen all over the big screen – and why its being threatened.
This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the famous emperor penguin—yes, the one you’ve seen all over the big screen—and why it’s being threatened.
Emperor penguin trivia
- Emperor penguins can grow to be about four feet tall, making them the largest penguin species.
- It’s likely no surprise that penguins are flightless birds but excellent swimmers. The emperor is no exception—they can dive up to 850 feet and stay underwater for more than 20 minutes without coming up for air.
- When they’re swimming, it makes sense for emperors to be dark on their backs and light on their underbellies— they blend in with the dark waters below them when looking from above, and they blend in with the light waters above them when looking from below.
- The emperor penguin’s harsh daily life in the Antarctic has been made famous by recent movies. To recap, in the winter they huddle together to conserve warmth and share body heat, each taking turns bracing the wind from the outside circle and then moving in toward the warm centre of the group. After laying an egg, females embark on a fishing trip and males stay behind to keep the eggs warm, eating nothing for two months. When the female returns with food for the chick, the male sets out to hunt for himself. If the mother is not back by the time the chick is hatched, the father will feed it a milk-like fluid from his throat, buying the mother—and chick—some extra time.
Why they’re threatened and how you can help
Emperor penguins, like most penguins, are very sensitive to changes to their environment. Climate change, therefore, is a very serious threat to emperor penguins. A new study released at the end of June revealed that climate change is melting ice in the Antarctic, putting emperor penguins at risk.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and published in Global Change Biology, noted a steep decline in the number of mating pairs in certain Antarctic regions. Emperor penguins rely on ice for breeding grounds; any disruption in the ice could spell disaster for a year of breeding. Additionally, the animals that the penguins feed on eat plankton, which grow on ice. In this way, the entire food chain could be threatened, and the potential consequences to us humans are still unknown.
In other parts of the world, melting sea ice is endangering other species as well, such as harp seals and polar bears.
To help fight climate change, learn about current environmental issues and make eco-friendly changes in your daily life.