Posted: Feb 25, 2013 11:22 AM by Suzanne Philippus
Updated: Feb 25, 2013 11:51 AM
Adelie penguins are Antarctica's cute ambassadors, but Montana State University researchers say they also could be facing a huge threat.
McMurdo Sound has the southernmost penguin colony in the world.
Curious, cautious, and standing just over two feet tall, the Adelie penguins nest on volcanic rock outcroppings in the last pristine ocean left on earth.
"We've found that a there's a very close highly interactive food web and that they are involved in," Antarctic researcher David Ainley said.
It is an ecosystem that remains largely intact from prehistoric times.
"That involves whales and fish. This is the only ocean left on earth where's there's still large fish and whales in numbers that go back millennia," Ainley said.
The biggest threat to the penguins is the fishery for Antarctic toothfish, which is sold as Chilean Sea Bass, according to Ainley.
Taking a top predator, such as the toothfish, out of the food chain can affect the entire ecosystem and that worries Ainley.
"Well, penguins are quite unusual compared to most other birds or mammals, at least the Antarctic penguins, because there's no place where they can hide," Ainley said.
Monitoring life here in the Ross Sea is critical.
"They don't live in boroughs like most penguin species, and they don't live amongst the trees. They don't. They do everything in the daylight unlike most mammals...So it's relatively easy to learn about the life history of the penguin," Ainley said.
This breeding season was successful for the penguins, however, scientists have discovered in
years past that when life gets tough, the penguins will move out.
Right now it is not illegal to eat the Antarctic toothfish, or Chilean Seabass, but experts say you should check with the restaurant before ordering to ensure the fish is coming from a sustainable, NOAA compliant supply source.
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