In a discovery that may surprise the scientist community, a new study has found that the population of Emperor penguin was hard hit by the last ice age many years ago.
Three populations of Emperor penguins only managed to survive the last ice age more than 30,000 years ago. They lived at Ross Sea in Antarctica and continued to live there for thousands of years.
The rapid extinction of the species clearly indicated that the conditions were so unfavorable that even the highly cold-adapted creatures couldn’t handle it, according to the researchers.
Jane Younger, joint lead study author and a Ph.D. student at the University of Tasmania, said that they looked at how changes in climate have impacted the penguin and the results were really shocking.
According to the researchers, none of the penguin species can handle such temperatures. Emperor Penguins, which is heavier and taller than any other penguins, can currently handle temperatures as minimum as minus 30 degrees Celsius (or minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit), which makes them “pretty cold adapted” now.
For the study, the scientists carried a comparative analysis of the genes in ancient and modern population of penguin. They determined that the population of emperor penguin started recovering in the last 12,000 years amid increasing temperatures by nearly 15 degrees Celsius and the sea ice present around Antarctica started subsiding.
The huge impact on penguin populations may be because of the chicks that have a better survival chance. Less sea would have allowed them getting into the ocean more easily for the feeding purpose.
The only reason that might have helped the remaining penguin population to survive is an area of ocean that was kept free of sea ice always from current and wind.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Global Change Biology.