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All Creatures,

Episode 87: Royalty of Antarctica, Emperor Penguins

April 30, 2019

This is an extended episode to discuss one of the World’s most favorite animals, the Emperor Penguin. Famous for their incredible charisma and featured in many movies, Emperor Penguins survive in the harshest environment on Earth. Listen to learn more about just how they not only survive but thrive. Yet, due to climate change, the Emperor Penguin could be extinct in less than 100 years.

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Emperor Penguin Description

There are an estimated 17 to 20 penguin species. The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the largest. They also out of all birds, are the deepest diving with recorded dives of just over 500 meters. This species inhabits Antarctica and survives the harshest winters of any known bird species.

Penguin evolution fascinates scientists and dates back nearly 100 million years. The first documented penguin lived approximately 60 million years ago along the New Zealand coast. A species known as “Penguin A” is the first closest relative to today’s Emperor Penguin and lived about 40 million years ago.

Emperor Penguin Facts

Over millions of years Emperor Penguins evolved to survive in the harsh Antarctic biome.

  • Live up to 20 years in the wild
  • Can dive up to 500 meters and stay under for 20 minutes
  • Can swim up to 9 mph (15 kph)
  • Waddle on land up to 1.5 mph (2.5 kph)
  • Can walk inland up to 150 km to nesting sites
  • Feed on fish, crustaceans and cephalopods
  • Can be preyed upon by Leopard Seals, Orcas, Sea Lions and some other birds
  • Fathers stay to hatch eggs but then trade off with mothers to go back and eat, then to feed the young, co-parenting
  • Complex feathering to survive cold
  • Incredible communication to identify mates and young

Conservation Status

Half of the World’s penguins are threatened with extinction. The Emperor Penguin is classified as near threatened with an estimated 600,000 birds in the wild. However, recent catastrophic loss of sea ice is pushing them towards extinction. Some estimates have Emperor Penguins being extinct in the next 100 years. A recent report documented the loss of an entire colony of penguin chicks due to the early breaking up of a critical ice shelf in the Halley Bay.

Conservation Tips

Climate change threatens many species, to include many penguin species. We all need to accept, understand, and strategize on how to combat climate change. The first step is understanding your own carbon imprint. You can evaluate your carbon imprint HERE.

You can also help by planting trees. They are critical in removing carbon from the atmosphere. HERE is a website you can use to evaluate which tree to plant, or check with your country on which native species to plant.

Organizations to Support

Global Penguin Society

NASA APPS

Please go HERE to check out NASA apps on climate change

 

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