By Becky Oskin, Contributing Writer | February 16, 2016 07:05am ET
Let's give the penguins a little credit.
The news reported around the world was startling — that some 150,000 Adélie penguins have died in Antarctica because a colossal iceberg cut off their sea access.
But there's no proof yet that the birds are dead. No one has actually found 150,000 frozen penguins. In fact, experts think there's a less horrific explanation for the missing birds: When the fishing gets tough, penguins simply pick up and move. It wouldn't be the first time Adélie penguins marched to new digs. When an iceberg grounded in the southern
in 2001, penguins on
Ross Island relocated to nearby colonies until the ice broke up.
"Just because there are a lot fewer birds observed doesn't automatically mean the ones that were there before have perished," said Michelle LaRue, a penguin population researcher at the
University of Minnesota in ,
who was not involved in the study. "They easily could have moved
elsewhere, which would make sense if nearby colonies are thriving," LaRue
told Live Science in an email interview. Minneapolis
Where did they go?
The misplaced penguins lived at a colony on
in Commonwealth Bay,
in East Antarctica. In mid-February 2010, the
Rhode Island-sized iceberg B09B crashed into the bay's Mertz Glacier. The
stranded iceberg forced the penguins to walk more than 37 miles (60 kilometers)
for food, researchers report in a new study. The greater the distance to
dinner, the harder it is for baby chicks to get enough calories from their