The African penguin has endured survival challenges for at least 22,000 years due to habitat loss. Scientists are now looking into the past to understand more about how African Penguins continue to survive changes in climate. This is to assist the endearing feathery creatures better now and in the future.
A study published on April 20 in the African Journal of Marine Science depicts certain things. This includes the location of these climate change survivors’ homes, where they relocated as the last Ice Age ended, and how those locations changed through time.
The Scientific Claims
The study claims that more than 20,000 years ago, the African penguin lived on 15 sizable islands off the coast of southern Africa. These are further known as the black-footed, Cape, or Jackass penguin. The Last Glacial Maximum, known as the Interglacial Period, lasted roughly 15 to 20,000 years ago.
Moreover, it was characterized by enormous ice sheets covering a significant Earth area. The islands were effectively sunk as a result of this change in the climate. It is because melting ice causes sea levels to rise. Over the following 22,000 years, the rising sea drastically restricted the area suitable for nesting penguin colonies.
The scientists analyzed topographical maps of the ocean floor to locate potential ancient islands. It may be as deep as 32 to 426 feet below sea levels. To avoid predators on the mainland, penguins use islands as nesting grounds. They also require sufficient foraging grounds for anchovies and sardines within a 12-mile range.
The researchers discovered 15 sizable islands. They may have existed off the southwest coast of Africa. Moreover, the longest is around 115 miles long and lies 426 feet below the sea’s surface. This discovery was on the premise that sea levels were lower during the last Ice Age.
They discovered 220 islets that would have been excellent nesting locations for penguins when they took the pace of sea level rises over the previous 15,000 to 7,000 years into consideration.
The Survival of Penguins
According to the study, these islands may have been home to anywhere between 6.4 million and 18.8 million penguins at their peak before their numbers started to decline.
In a statement, co-author Heath Beckett, an ecologist at Stellenbosch University, claimed several things. It includes that these shifts in habitat accessibility over the previous 22,000 years “could have had a great effect on penguin populations.”
Beckett presents the current reality of a post-1900 decrease in the African penguin population, in contrast to this new paleohistorical image of penguins throughout the islands of southern Africa. Around 1.45 million penguins formerly inhabited Dassen Island. But by 2011, only 21,000 breeding pairs of African penguins remained in South Africa.
By 2019, they had decreased even further to 13,600. And seven breeding colonies in South Africa were responsible for supporting about 97% of the country’s current population.
The Final Words
Additional problems raised by this research include the relocation of the penguins. And determining how much more strain the species can withstand as human pressures and food competition intensify.
The research notes that these results emphasize the African penguin’s resilience as a species. And that this might be exploited for its conservation and management in an unpredictable environment, despite the severe population declines and their ongoing battle.
Also read: Check Out How Snake Island Plays A Major Role In The Russia & Ukrainian War