Tag: animals

Declining Penguin Populations Turn Heads Toward Coastal Currents

Magellanic penguins are one of the few species of penguins that live in warmer, non-polar waters. They breed along the coasts of Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. In the winter, these penguins take to the sea and spend the colder months along the shallower continental shelf. Recent observations of river outflow have shown that oceanic winds and currents can mean good or bad winters for the penguins, but only the females.

Near Threatened

Ecologists and biologists have turned their attention toward these tiny penguins in recent years due to human threats to their breeding grounds. Although there are still millions of Magellanic penguins along the South American coastlines, oil spills pose a hazard to large breeding colonies, particularly along the shores of Argentina. Every year, 20,000 adults and 22,000 chicks succumb to oil spills.

Climate change has also caused a decline in the Magellanic penguin population. Warming oceans have displaced fish populations, driving them away from their historic ranges. During the breeding season, this means that hunting penguins have to swim up to 50 miles farther to find food while their mates sit starving on their nests.

A River Flows Through It

The Rio de la Plata meets the South Atlantic Ocean between Argentina and Uruguay, dumping nutrient-rich water and sediments into the surrounding sea. Wind patterns along the coast disperse the outflow. The microorganisms in the water attract fish. Low winds mean that the fish and their food supply stay relatively close to the mouth of the river, whereas stronger current carries them along the coast for miles, dispersing the fish.


Magellanic penguins feed on these fish during their winters at sea. When the winds are low and the food is concentrated, the penguins are healthier-looking in the springtime and more fit to have a productive mating season. If currents thin the fish populations, the penguins suffer, though scientists noted that only the female Magellanic penguins seemed to feel the effects.

Biological Differences

Like many species, Magellanic penguins exhibit sexual dimorphism, which is a visual difference between the two sexes. Male penguins of this species are larger than the females, and scientists believe that may play a key role in discovering why the males don’t seem as affected by changes in the currents. The larger male penguins are thought to have more stamina and a greater ability to hunt at depths that the females cannot reach. As a result, they have access to more food when the river outflow is dispersed than the female penguins do.

Studying the habits of these little birds has been a challenge because of where they spend their winters. Satellite technology and digital trackers are making it easier to scientists to understand what Magellanic penguins do when they’re away from land. Before biologists compared the satellite imagery of the Rio de la Plata with the penguins’ unusual health fluctuations, the reason was left to much tricker guesswork. As we continue to blend technology into all facets of science, we are better able to study the world around us and understand how we can help it as habitats change and the climate shifts.

For now, the population seems to be doing alright. That’s not the case for other wildlife in the seas, with populations decreasing by up to 50% over the past forty years.

The Ocean Is A Vast, Unexplored Mystery That’s Still Full Of Secrets

Space is hardly the final frontier when it comes to human exploration.

All around us are the oceans, a vast and unmapped region teeming with life that is largely undiscovered. The amount of stuff that science doesn’t know about the world’s oceans could literally fill an ocean.

Creatures of the Deep

Most of the species that live in the ocean are unknown to us. According to a study that was featured in the journal Biology, the oceans are home to up to one million different species.

Of them, around two-thirds have yet to be discovered. In many ways, the world’s oceans are a mysterious realm of possibility that humans have barely begun to explore.

There is so much unknown life in the oceans, an average of 200 new ocean species are discovered every year and we’ve still barely scratched the surface.

What You Never Knew

The oceans cover about 70 percent of the surface of the Earth, and yet there are so many unknowns about the mysteries lurking beneath those blue waves.

The deepest part of the oceans, the Mariana Trench, extends 7 miles below the surface of the water.

To put that into perspective, Mount Everest could fit down in the trench with room to spare.

Manned explorations of the trench have never descended deeper than 35,797 feet below the surface.

Entire ecosystems exist under the surface of the oceans, including lakes, rivers, mountain ranges, volcanoes, and waterfalls.

The most impressive waterfall in the entire world lies beneath the surface of the ocean. The Denmark Strait is a waterfall with an 11,500-foot drop that makes Niagara Falls look like a trickle.

More to Discover

One oceanographer has estimated that humans have actually explored less than 10 percent of the planet. But for humans, it’s extremely difficult to explore the deep areas of the ocean and we have yet to successfully map the entire ocean floor.

Equipment makes it possible to get a general idea of what’s down there, but even the most sophisticated technology doesn’t provide detail.

The U.S. National Ocean Service says that more than 80 percent of the ocean is “unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored,” an idea that’s both thrilling and chilling. An untold number of shipwrecks and air wrecks lay on the floor of the ocean, out of sight and out of reach.

Legend hints that the remnants of fabulous cities, like the mythic Atlantis, lay waiting down here in the darkness as well. The ocean could hold the keys to some of history’s greatest mysteries.

Sleeping Secrets

Humans have explored about 5 percent of the ocean floor. The other 95 percent has never been seen by human eyes.

There are canyons wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon, incredible valleys, lakes that are more than 300 feet deep and species no person has ever seen hiding under the waters of the ocean.

The plant and animal life that exists here is incredibly varied and may answer all sorts of questions we have about our world.

But we’ll have to find them first.

Humans are not built to spend extended periods of time underwater, which puts an enormous amount of pressure on the body.

The temperatures in the ocean also vary widely, getting as hot at 750 degrees F in some places near underwater volcanoes.

The ocean remains a place of shadowy, hidden mysteries that humans can’t yet reach. That makes the possibilities tantalizing and thrilling.