Endangered Galapagos Penguin Population Doubles

posted: 08/07/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Galapagos Penguin

Things weren't looking good for the Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) at the turn of the century. Scientists estimated that only a few hundred of the creatures remained on the Galapagos Islands, landing the small birds on the Endangered Species list.

More than a decade later, biologists finally have good news: Galapagos penguin populations have since doubled, thanks in large part to shifting winds and ocean currents that have breathed new life into penguin colonies.

The Equatorial Undercurrent feeds an important pool of cold water that houses the fish on which Galapagos penguins prey. Over the past several years, the undercurrent has shifted slightly northward, supercharging the nutrient-rich cold pool with more fish and algae. With an abundance of food, penguin populations have swelled significantly, a new study reveals.

Recently accepted in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the study names human-induced climate change and natural variations as factors contributing to the undercurrent's movement.

"With climate change, there are a lot of new and increasing stresses on ecosystems, but biology sometimes surprises us," said study lead author Kristopher Karnauskas in a news release. "There might be places -- little outposts -- where ecosystems might thrive just by coincidence."

Click here for more information from the American Geophysical Union

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