Melting glaciers opened new nesting real estate for Adélie penguin in Antarctica. The penguins' march into new breeding space helped fuel a baby boom for the birds.
Glaciers and steep cliffs limit the expansion of Beaufort Island Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) colony's nesting grounds. Earth scientists recently documented how as the glaciers retreated, young penguins slowed their emigration from the island and starting putting down roots in the newly ice-free areas, especially after 2005.
Beaufort Island lies in the Ross Sea, one of the most isolated and pristine areas on Earth. The Ross Sea's ice shelf covers 487,000 square kilometers (188,000 sq. mi.), approximately the size of France.
ANALYSIS: Where's the Melt Factor in Antarctica?
Although the glaciers are retreating on Beaufort Island, the sea ice there actually expanded in some parts of Antarctica as the region warmed. However, the PLOS ONE study authors noted this expanded sea ice also is more predictably pocked with holes called polynyas, which allow penguins access to the bird's prey, such as crystal krill (Euphausia crystallorophias) and silverfish (Pleuragramma antarctica).