Antarctica Characteristics Covered in ice and snow – little ice-free land for plant colonization Summer growing season (Dec. – Feb.) near freezing. High winds all year round A virtual desert inland, several meters of snow fall along coast annually No trees or shrubs, only two species flowering plants,( in South Orkney Islands, the South Shetland Islands and western Antarctic Peninsula.) Moss and lichen in wetter areas. Greatest species diversity along western side of Antarctic Peninsula, where climate is generally warmer and wetter.
Challenges to Life at the Poles Plants and Animals must adapt to: –Cold –Drought –Short growing season –Long days, Long nights More recently, small changes in climate can mean dramatic changes for life at the poles
Plant Life in the Antarctic Region Antarctic Pearlwort Colobanthus quitensis Hairgrass Deschampsia antarctica Lichens, Verrucaria, Xanthoria, Turgidosculum (Mastodia), Lecanora Mosses, Muelleriella crassifolia Tussock Grass Puccinellia macquariensis Tussock Grass, Falkland Islands Photographs by Rob Seppelt
Adapted and Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Anne Viaulizabeth Annelizabeth Anne
Krill is Critical Keystone- nearly every animal in Antarctic region feeds on krill Life cycle -Krill feed on algae beneath the ice. During the past 20 years the supply of sea ice has melted as temperatures have risen in Antarctica. Threats – over-harvesting for use as bait, chicken feed; temperature fluctuations that affect their food source (algae) Krill Cam - http://www.aad.gov.au/webc ams/krill/
Antarctic Fish and other sea creatures Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) Squid (important penguin food source) Antarctic Ice Fish Jellyfish Starfish
Curious Creature Antarctic Ice Fish have antifreeze proteins that keep their blood from freezing, instead absorbing oxygen through their skin. Some lack hemoglobin (Thus the blood is more fluid and the animals save energy otherwise needed to pump blood through their body) Julian Gutt, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
Antarctic Mammals Seals (Leopard, Ross, Weddell, Crabeater) * Whales (Baleen – Blue, Humpback, Toothed - Sperm)* Orca (in the dolphin family, referred to as toothed whale)* *Also found in Arctic
Seals Leopard – Most ferocious Weddell – Most well known
Invertebrates On the whole Antarctic continent, the only creatures that really live on the land are insects. Midges and mites live in patches of moss that grow on rocky mountain sides, in spots that are sheltered from the wind, the insect eggs stay frozen all winter, and thaw and hatch the next year. The moss they live in often grows near bird rookeries, where it is fertilized by bird excrement -- called "guano. Ticks and lice also live on the sea birds, penguins, and seals The largest land-living creature on the entire continent is the wingless fly, about six mm long (about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch). Project Explore, Val Olnes, Univ. of Minn.
Bird Adaptations to Cold Environments Antifreeze eggs Cold Feet, warm heart Cozy homes Dressing down Feathered snowshoes Knobbly feet Posing for warmth
Flightless birds belonging to the family Spheniscidae. 17 species world-wide, all of which breed in the Southern hemisphere. Name believed to have originated from the Welsh "pen gwyn" which means white head Indicators/Canaries/Marine Sentinels Penguins in Particular
total number breeding pairs of penguins in Antarctic - concentrated in coastal regions. diet is fish, squid and crustaceans, smaller penguins feed mainly on krill adapt their diet to what is available, and their diet varies considerably with season. Fast while breeding, often taking turns foraging timing of breeding is crucial cycle is timed so that chicks hatch and fledge when food is most plentiful. Success depends on availability of prey
Studying Penguins Researchers of Note: K. Putz and Associates – Falklands Conservation International J. Clark and K. Kerry – Australia C. Shaw, University of Adelaide D. Boersma, Univ. of Washington D. Ainley, H.T. Harvey Assoc G.Ballard, K. Dugger – Oregon State University Rory Wilson, Swansea Univ., England Wayne Z. Trivelpiece, NOAA P. Ponganis, G. Kooyman, Scripps H. Caswell, WHOI
Monitoring techniques Counting –daily over many months, to determine timing of events such as egg laying, feeding, migration Diet Analysis –When adults return from the sea to feed the chick, includes analyzing regurgitated food, weighing birds, analyzing guano Satellite tracking - Flipper bands, collars, crittercams, more recently micro- chips embedded in skin, monitoring location of penguins at sea. Correlating –data from above tied in with information about the fish, krill and squid in nearby waters, meteorology, long term climate data
Researchers by species interest Adelies – D. Ainley (H.T. Harvey Assoc), K. Dugger (OSU), Geographic structure of Adelie penguin populations: Demography of population change. Work out of McMurdo, on Cape Byrd, Cape Royds, Cape Crozier Rockhoppers/Magellenic – K. Putz (Falklands Cons. Intl), D. Boersma (Univ. of Wash.) diving behaviors, accurate population figures, breeding and foraging, human impacts on migration and feeding Gentoo, Chinstrap – W.Trivelpiece (NOAA), Penguins as monitors of krill populations Emperors/Kings – R. Kirkwood (AAD) P. Fretwell, P. Trathan (British Antarctic Survey), G. Kooyman (Scripps), S. Jenouvrier, H. Caswell (WHOI), foraging and migration patterns, colony locating, breeding patterns, diving physiology
Emperor, Aptenodytes forsteri - largest, only on Antarctic mainland. Large, well studied colony on Taylor Glacie and Penguin Ranch on Ross Island. Walk slowly, do not hop. (maximum walking speed 1.7 mph). Feed on krill, squid and silverfish. Recent satellite tracking of their excrement to find colonies! Macaroni, Eudyptes chrysolophus, a crested penguin, most numerous of world's penguins, estimated world population of over 9 million breeding pairs. Breed on peninsula and outlying islands www.seaworld.org Photo by Yan Ropert-Coudert
Current Emperor Research International Interest: Australian Team: working out of Mawson Research Station at the Taylor Rookery, British Team at Halley Station, American Team, McMurdo Station, WHOI (French and American) analyzing previous french data (early work(1960s) by French laid groundwork) Key findings: 50 years of data from French near the Dumont DUrville Stn. (Cherel, Prevost) Current work: Pt. Géologie colony began a sudden decline in the mid-1970s and has since failed to recover, probably due to warming winter temperatures that have resulted in thinner fast ice on which they breed (Kirkwood, Ainley)
I believe emperor penguins can be a very good indicator species by which to assess environmental changes, because there was no environmental impact on the Ross Sea populations until about 1998. I think it's one of the only places to have remained free from human impact for so long and where we have pre-impact data about the environment and various species. In almost every other place that animal species are studied, scientists can't get away from human impact, which compromises the data." Roger Kooyman, Scripps Institute
King, Aptenodytes patagonicus Like Emperors, King penguins make no nest, lay a single egg of around 310g, hold on their feet for entire incubation period - 55 days. Allows breeding in much colder terrain than species that lay eggs on the ground, negates need for nesting material. Eggs brooded by both parents in turn, shift changes of 6 to 18 days; the non-brooding parent goes to sea on extended foraging trips. Found on islands around peninsula.
Adélie, Pygoscelis adeliae Most highly studied, named after an area of the Peninsula called Adelie Land (Adele, wife of explorer Jules Dumont dUrville) Least conspicuous, very good camouflage from predators. Estimated at 2.5 million pairs, largest population near Ross Sea.
Adelie Ecology To reach their colonies the penguins must walk over several miles of ice, but by the time the chicks are ready to fledge (swim away and get their own food), the sea ice will have broken up, and the chicks will be near open ocean. Adelie breeding colonies must be on land because they use rocks to build their nests, and they must be near open water to gather food. For example the Ross Island colonies are located in places where sea ice is seasonal (only in winter) or in places with little ice Breed October-March, Fledge by May. Travel only 5- 100km during breeding, up to 1200 km during winter feeding (in and around pack ice)
Why Study Adelies? 1) Studied over long period (complete data records extending back for 50 years) due in part to their large and ubiquitous population and the ease with each their habitats were accessed. 2) the dry, cold Antarctic environment has preserved Adélie Penguin bones since before the last time that glaciers grew on Earth, i.e. since before the last Ice Age 3) the major feature of its habitat, ice (both land (fast ice) and marine (pack ice)) is now easily quantified and monitored by NASA satellites and other remote sensing devices; and Prominent researchers: David Ainley, Kate Dugger, et al www.penguinscience.com/
Adelies as Canary of Climate Change www.penguinscience.com Populations emigrate, experience natural fluctuation and have been adapting to normal changing conditions for over 50 years. But as seen here, warming conditions cause emigration and eventual abandonment of a nesting site
Other Climate Change Effects Besides loss of sea ice at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, a warmer atmosphere is holding more moisture there, resulting in greater deposits of snow. Adélies need snow-free areas to breed, to be able to find stones to build its nests. Heavier snow fall causes suitable nesting areas to disappear.
Loss of Sea Ice Can Cause Complications Icebergs B-15 and C-16 positioned since February 2001, arrive just after the breeding season. In 2003, B-15 broke into three pieces. McMurdo Sound, west of Ross Island, is covered by fast ice, it normally breaks out to leave all of the Sound north of Cape Royds open. The new break up of ice, forces the penguins to exert increased effort and changes the propensity of individuals to occupy, visit or recruit to and among the 3 western colonies depending on relative access to open water
Rockhopper Named for propensity to hop from rock to rock In the crested penguin family like Macaroni One of smallest penguins Internationally rated as vulnerable or endangered (Population impacted by HAB, may be unable to recover) Breed on clifftops Feed on squid and krill Falklands Conservation Society
Recent Rockhopper Findings Putz: Population decrease since 1930s – 80% Recently confined foraging to Falkland Islands/Coast of Argentina Foraging trips are increasing in length and time Rockhoppers increasingly vulnerable to fishing bycatch as they forage along the Patagonian shelf
Magellanic (Patagonian) Breed in burrows near shore Very shy, non- aggressive Feed on fish and squid Breed mostly on islands, esp. Falkland Islands Sometimes called jackass due to braying call Tim Mason
Magellanic Ecology nest in burrows, consequently spaced much further apart than surface-nesting penguins like offshore islands with tussac grass or small shrubs, which are in abundance around the Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego and the Pacific coast of Chile. Such islands offer deep layers of soil for burrowing, dense vegetation offering protection from aerial predators. Referred to as Marine Sentinels; forage longest in areas of high prey abundance and will travel as far as necessary to find the densest populations. Their foraging behavior can be monitored and correlated to determine ocean productivity.
Magellanic Ecology, Cont. Return to Breeding Site September – breed in October, Chicks hatch in December, by May are all leaving for the sea until the following September
Current Magellanic Research D. Boersma (working in Porto Tumbo, Argentina): through extensive monitoring of 200,000 breeding pairs learned they now travel 25 miles further for food than earlier years. With increased rain fall associated with climate change, reproductive success was unusually low, nests filled up with water; burrows collapsed; and chicks got wet, became cold, and died.
Cutting Edge Monitoring Concern that monitoring individual penguins using flipper bands introduces a bias (extra drag on the flipper). Recent IPY funding focusing on electronic identification of individuals tagged with microchips, automatic weighing and/or antennas buried in the ground to avoid any disturbance.
Resources Source for Food Web Game http://mudface.net/ Live Penguin cam at Cape Royds - http://thistle.org/pcam/ Live krill cam in Antarctic - http://www.aad.gov.au/webcams/krill/ UCAR – Windows to the Universe – Penguin Research Postcards from the Poles - http://www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/people/postcards/ antarctic_post.html Antarctic Lesson Plans http://www.classroom.antarctica.gov.au http://www.windows.ucar.edu
Tapping into Ongoing work SATELLITES – students and teachers, part of GLOBE project TEA Armada – Teachers Experiencing the Antarctic and Arctic (www.tea.armadaproject) PolarTREC – Nationwide and here at UMass – Julie Brigham Grette (Lake Elgygytgyn) http://www.polartrec.com/geologic- climate-research-in-siberia NASA Explorer School Teams Southern Ocean Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics (SOGLOBEC) National Science Foundation funded http://www.nationalgeographic.com/sealab/antarctica/mission.htm l PenguinScience – a live penguin cam and continuous data uploading from the research by D. Ainley and associates, encourages teacher participation and provides relevant classroom activities, http://www.penguinscience.com/ Penguin Project- ongoing research with journals and interactive links, including weekly updates. Dee Boersma, researcher. http://mesh.biology.washington.edu/penguinProject/