Penguins track Antarctic changesLeave a Comment
- Shifts in food webs and climate are written in penguin feathers and eggshells and revealed through an amino acid isotope technique.
Penguins preserve records of Antarctic environmental change. The birds’ feathers and eggshells contain the chemical fingerprints of variations in diet, food web structure and even climate, researchers reported February 12 at the American Geophysical Union’s 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting.
The Antarctic environment has changed dramatically in recent decades. Overfishing has led to a decline in krill, small swimming crustaceans that are a key food source for birds, whales, fish and penguins in the Southern Ocean. Climate change is altering wind directions, creating open water regions in the sea ice that become hot spots for life….
…This study highlights the power of this amino acid isotope technique to track environmental change through animal tissues, says Seth Newsome, an animal ecologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque who was not involved in the study. The technique is becoming popular because it can detect both diet and baseline changes in the food web from the same tissue, he says.
“This 80-year record is just part of a much broader record of change,” McMahon said.
K. McMahon, C. Michelson and M.J. Polito. Developing compound-specific stable isotope analysis of archival penguin tissues to reconstruct past Antarctic ecosystem responses to climate change and anthropogenic disturbance. American Geophysical Union Ocean Sciences meeting, Portland, Oregon, February 12, 2018.