Facts for Prelims (FFP)
Why disappearance of sea ice cause catastrophic breeding failure of emperor penguins?
Emperor penguins’ breeding cycle heavily relies on stable sea ice, where they spend their entire breeding cycle. The sea ice, present from April to December, provides the necessary platform for their breeding and fledging activities (the stage in the development of young birds when they acquire the feathers and abilities necessary for flight.).
As a result of the loss of sea ice, the penguin chicks were unable to develop their waterproof adult wings and regulate their body temperature. This led to their vulnerability to drowning or freezing to death.
While emperor penguins usually adapt to localized ice loss by moving to stable sites, the extensive shrinking of sea ice extent makes this strategy unfeasible.
This incident marked the first recorded instance of widespread breeding failure of emperor penguins across multiple colonies due to sea ice loss.