An entire breeding colony of some 40,000 Adélie penguins has seen all but two of its chicks wiped out in what scientists are calling a “catastrophic breeding event” in Antarctica.
It is the second time in just four years such a disaster has taken place. In more than 50 years of observation, it had never been recorded before.
The calving of a section of the Mertz glacier is thought to be responsible, changing ocean currents and leading to record ice coverage in the birds’ breeding ground in the eastern Antarctic, meaning the penguins had too far to travel for food. The chicks starved to death, and the ice has been littered by thousands of bodies and unhatched eggs.
The catastrophe has prompted urgent calls for the establishment of a marine protected area in East Antarctica.