Anders Bekeken

100 Places To Remember: The Antarctic Peninsula

Geschreven op 1-6-2010 - Erik van Erne. Geplaatst in Natuur Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

100places to rememberWhere Penguins Fly in the Sea. Antarctica has no permanent human settlements; instead this vast land, which is covered with ice and surrounded by sea ice, is the domain of another two-legged creature. Millions of penguins, that great icon of the continent, inhabit Antarctica, many of them on the Antarctic Peninsula at the northern-most tip.

The Emperor Penguin, the largest of all the species, is endemic to Antarctica. Every year, the Emperor Penguins make an amazing journey. Coupled in mating pairs, they trek 50-120 kilometres across the Antarctic wasteland to their ancestral breeding grounds. Here, each female lays a single egg.

The penguins look somewhat awkward on land, where they either waddle or toboggan, sliding over the ice on their bellies, but they are agile and elegant underwater. Early Antarctic explorers actually mistook them for fish, and classified them accordingly. With their streamlined bodies and wings that have evolved into strong, stiff flippers, penguins are perfectly shaped to fly through the water. The Emperor Penguin can dive for up to 22 minutes at a time, and to a depth of more than 500 metres.

Like its smaller cousin, the Adélie Penguin, the Emperor depends on sea ice to breed. The amount of sea ice also influences the abundance of krill, a shrimp-like crustacean that is a vital food source for the penguins and for the fish they eat.

Studies show that in the Antarctic Peninsula, temperatures are rising at one of the fastest rates anywhere on Earth. It has probably been 10,000 years since the ice shelves in this area have been as small as they are today. When the sea ice disappears, so will the colonies of penguins. The rapid rate of warming is expected to continue, and large numbers of Emperor and Adélie Penguins will be under threat by 2050, making the penguin an ominous symbol of global warming.

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