Life in the Polar Regions Antarctic Plant and Animal Life Penguins

Life in the Polar Regions
Antarctic Plant and Animal Life
with Special Emphasis on
Arctic and Antarctic: Perfect
• Antarctic Peninsula excellent place to
study species evolution – home to many
amazing adaptations.
• Arctic – Historical Records deep in the
ice – CO2
Map of Antarctica
Antarctica Characteristics
• Covered in ice and snow – little ice-free land for plant
• “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
Basic Adaptation Response
Avoidance or Confrontation
• Migration
• Resistance
• Hibernation
– Poikilotherms
– Homeotherms
Plant Life in the Antarctic
Antarctic Pearlwort
Colobanthus quitensis
Hairgrass Deschampsia
Tussock Grass,
Falkland Islands
Lichens, Verrucaria, Xanthoria, Turgidosculum
(Mastodia), Lecanora
Mosses, Muelleriella crassifolia
Tussock Grass Puccinellia macquariensis
Photographs by Rob Seppelt
Adapted and Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Anne Viaulizabeth 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
• Threats – over-harvesting for
use as bait, chicken feed;
temperature fluctuations that
affect their food source
• Krill Cam
Antarctic Fish and other sea
• Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus
• 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
Blue Whale
Leopard – Most ferocious
Weddell – Most well
• 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
Project Explore, Val Olnes, Univ. of Minn.
(about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch).
Antarctic Birds
• Petrels (Wilson’s storm, Cape, Snow)
• Albatross (black browed, grey headed,
light mantled
• Blue-eyed cormorant (Phalacrocorax
• Penguins (Emperor, Adelie, Chinstrap,
King, Royal, Rockhopper, Magellanic)
• Arctic Tern
Bird Adaptations to Cold
Antifreeze eggs
Cold Feet, warm heart
Cozy homes
Dressing down
Feathered snowshoes
Knobbly feet
Posing for warmth
Penguins in Particular
• 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
World Penguin Distribution
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
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
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
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 microchips 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
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.
Int’l), 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
• 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
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
Photo by Yan Ropert-Coudert
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!
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(1960’s)
by French laid groundwork)
Key findings: 50 years of data
from French near the Dumont
D’Urville 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
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 d’Urville) 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 5100km during breeding, up to 1200 km during winter
feeding (in and around pack ice)
Why Study Adelie’s?
• 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
• 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
Adelies as Canary of Climate
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. Adélie’s 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
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
• Named for propensity to
hop from rock to rock
• In the crested penguin
family like Macaroni
• One of smallest
• 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 1930’s –
• Recently confined foraging to Falkland
Islands/Coast of Argentina
• Foraging trips are increasing in length and
• Rockhoppers increasingly vulnerable to
fishing bycatch as they forage along the
Patagonian shelf
Magellanic (Patagonian)
• Breed in burrows near
• Very shy, nonaggressive
• Feed on fish and squid
• Breed mostly on
islands, esp. Falkland
• Sometimes called
“jackass’ due to braying
• Tim Mason
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
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
• 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.
• Source for Food Web Game
• Live Penguin cam at Cape Royds -
• Live krill cam in Antarctic
• UCAR – Windows to the Universe – Penguin Research
“Postcards from the Poles”
• Antarctic Lesson Plans
Tapping into Ongoing work
SATELLITES – students and teachers, part of GLOBE project
TEA Armada – Teachers Experiencing the Antarctic and Arctic
PolarTREC – Nationwide and here at UMass – Julie Brigham
Grette (Lake El’gygytgyn)
NASA Explorer School Teams
Southern Ocean Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics
(SOGLOBEC) National Science Foundation funded
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,
Penguin Project- ongoing research with journals and interactive
links, including weekly updates. Dee Boersma, researcher.