Polar bears have long been the poster child of climate change, but they are about have some competition from their antipodean counterparts.
Emperor penguins, Antarctica’s largest and most huggable birds, are sweating out global warming. Balmy temperatures at Earth’s southern pole are melting sea ice, where emperor penguins breed and raise their young. If the ice dissolves before penguins chicks are ready to enter the frigid waters, they could die.
Sea ice also undergirds penguins’ food supply. Penguins eat krill. Krill eat zooplankton. Zooplankton live on the bottom of sea ice. When the sea ice melts, it hurts every species along the food chain.
Scientists expect the penguin population to decline as temperatures rise. Today, there are 3,000 breeding pairs of emperor penguin. That number could drop to 500 by the year 2100.