Young penguins suffer at feeding time due to an inflexible division of parental duties
Date: February 10, 2016
The fixed division of labour between crested penguin parents increases their chicks' vulnerability to food shortages made ever more common by climate change. The parents have been unable to adapt their habits to the challenges of increasingly frequent years of limited food supply and, as a result, will become further threatened by extinction. So says Kyle Morrison of
University and the National Institute
of Water & Atmospheric Research in , who led a study
published in Springer's journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. New Zealand
The main duties of all penguin parents are to provide food and to defend their offspring against predatory seabirds and other intruding penguins. While on guard duty, parents fast and do not go off to sea to feed. Most penguins avoid long fasting periods by alternating brooding and chick-provisioning duties between the sexes. However, the seven species of Eudyptespenguins (the crested penguins, including rockhopper penguins) are an exception. Males guard and fast for the first three to four weeks after eggs have hatched. During this time, females are the sole providers. During the next six weeks, chicks gather together in crèches and can be fed by both parents. During this crèche phase, both sexes may make extended multi-day trips to sea to regain weight.