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  • Penguins have long captured

  • the imagination and the hearts

  • of people the world over.

  • But while popular culture

  • depicts them as clumsy, adorable birds

  • with endlessly abundant populations,

  • the truth is that penguins are exceedingly graceful,

  • often ornery,

  • and their populations are in rapid free fall.

  • Their real life situation is far more precarious

  • than people think.

  • And if current trends do not change,

  • it may not be long

  • before penguins can only be found in movies.

  • There are many things about penguins

  • that make them odd birds, so to speak.

  • For one thing,

  • they are one of the few bird species that cannot fly,

  • having evolved from flight-capable birds

  • about 60 million years ago.

  • Surprisingly, their closest living relative

  • is the albatross,

  • a bird known for its enormous wingspan

  • and extraordinary soaring abilities.

  • It may seem strange

  • that losing the ability to fly

  • would be an evolutionary advantage,

  • but the penguin's short, flipper-like wings

  • and solid bones

  • allow them to swim faster and dive deeper

  • than any other bird on Earth,

  • filling an ecological niche that no other bird can.

  • Penguins inhabit the southern hemisphere,

  • being one of the few bird species

  • able to breed in the coldest environments.

  • But contrary to popular belief,

  • they are not restricted to cold regions

  • nor are there any at the North Pole.

  • In fact, only 4 of the 18 penguin species

  • regularly live and breed in Antarctica.

  • Most penguins live in subtemperate

  • to temperate regions.

  • And the Galapagos penguin even lives and breeds

  • right near the equator

  • off the coast of South America.

  • They are also found in South Africa,

  • Namibia,

  • Australia,

  • and New Zealand,

  • as well as on a number of islands

  • in the southern Atlantic,

  • Pacific,

  • Indian,

  • and Antarctic Oceans.

  • Although penguins spend 75% of their lives at sea,

  • they must come to shore every year

  • to reproduce and to molt their feathers.

  • They do this in a variety of places,

  • from the temporary ice sheets of the Antarctic

  • to the beaches of South Africa and Namibia,

  • to the rocky shores of subantarctic islands,

  • to the craggy lava surfaces in the Galapagos.

  • Different penguin species

  • have different nesting practices.

  • Some dig burrows into dirt, sand, or dried guano;

  • some nest in tussock grasses;

  • some build nests out of small rocks, sticks, and bones;

  • while others don't build any nests at all.

  • Although most penguins lay a clutch of two eggs,

  • the two largest species,

  • the King and the Emperor,

  • lay a single egg

  • that they incubate on top of their feet

  • for approximately two months.

  • Unfortunately, 15 of the 18 penguin species

  • are currently listed as threatened,

  • near-threatened,

  • or endangered

  • by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

  • In the last several decades,

  • we have seen the world populations

  • of most penguin species decline

  • by up to 90%,

  • with two of them,

  • the Yellow-eyed and Galapagos penguins,

  • down to just a few thousand birds.

  • Penguins are an indicator species,

  • the proverbial "canary in the coal mine."

  • Simply put, if penguins are dying,

  • it means our oceans are dying.

  • And sadly, most of this decline is attributable

  • to human activities.

  • Historically, penguins have had to deal

  • with multiple disturbances.

  • The mass collection of penguin eggs

  • and the harvesting

  • of the seabird guano they nested in

  • caused the dramatic decline

  • of several penguin species.

  • If you're wondering

  • what humans would want with seabird poop,

  • it was used as an ingredient

  • in fertilizer and in gunpowder,

  • being so valuable

  • that in the 19th century,

  • it was known as white gold.

  • Current threats to penguins include the destruction

  • of both marine and terrestrial habitats,

  • introduced predators,

  • entrapment in fishing nets,

  • and pollution from plastics and chemicals.

  • There have also been several large-scale oil spills

  • over the past 50 years

  • that have killed or impacted

  • tens of thousands of penguins around the world.

  • But the two major threats to penguins today

  • are global warming

  • and overfishing.

  • Global warming impacts penguins in multiple ways,

  • from interrupting the production of krill

  • due to decreased sea ice formation in the Antarctic,

  • to increasing the frequency

  • and severity of storms

  • that destroy nests,

  • to shifting the cold water currents

  • carrying the penguins' prey too far away

  • from penguin breeding and foraging grounds.

  • Even though humans

  • may be the greatest threat to penguins,

  • we are also their greatest hope.

  • Many research and conservation projects

  • are underway to protect penguin habitats

  • and restore vulnerable populations.

  • With a little help from us

  • and some changes in the practices

  • that impact our planet and oceans,

  • there is hope that our tuxedo-clad friends

  • will still be around in the next century.

Penguins have long captured

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B1 TED-Ed penguin bird galapagos antarctic decline

【TED-Ed】Penguins: Popularity, peril and poop - Dyan deNapoli

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    VoiceTube posted on 2014/01/08
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