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Tags Current Affairs

Melting Antarctic snow reveals remains of ancient penguins

Date: 06 October 2020 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

A new discovery has been made in the receding snow packs of Antarctic shelves: the remains of 800-year-old penguins.

 

Background

As the world warms up, melting ice sheets across the globe are exposing everything from trapped methane gas to Viking remains.

 

Details

  • Having discovered what initially appeared to be fresh Adélie penguin remains at Cape Irizar on the Antarctic coastline, researchers were surprised to discover that carbon-dating put the carcasses at a minimum of 800 years old.

  • The site was originally identified by the pebble mounds used to build penguin nests, with penguin chick bones scattered on the surface.

  • After further excavation and the recovery of penguin bone, feather, and eggshell, subsequent analysis revealed this was in fact a long-abandoned penguin habitat.

  • Penguins may have moved from the spot due to increasing snow cover or other climate shifts, but as more snow fell, the remains were preserved and frozen.

  • With the average annual temperature of this part of the continent rising by between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius since the 1980s, the trapped remains have now been revealed and are decomposing as normal.

  • The so-called 'fast ice' stretching inland from the sea may have begun to form as temperatures cooled, leaving the site inhospitable for penguins for much of the year. Now the reverse effect is underway with much of the ice melting.

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