London, Feb 12: King Penguins are nearing extinction due to global warming, scientists have warned. The birds distinguished by their ear patches of bright golden-orange feathers - thrive on the islands at the northern reaches of Antarctica, with a total population of over two million breeding pairs.
In a study, scientists have shown that there will be a nine per cent decline in the adult King penguin population for every 0.26 degrees Celcius of sea surface warming, suggesting that this population is at high risk under current global warming conditions, which predict an average increase of 0.2 degress Celcius per decade for the next two decades. There is a ''heavy extinction risk'' given current global warming predictions of a 0.4 degrees Celcius rise over two decades, which cuts the chance of survival from 95 per cent to 80 per cent, Dr Le Maho and his colleagues showed in the proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.
The reason cited for the danger posed to king penguins is the inavailability of food for them. The study says high sea surface temperatures in the penguins wintering range, where two thirds of the world's population of this species reside, diminished the amount of available marine prey, which decreased the survival of adult King penguins since they had to travel greater distances to find food.
Global warming is happening much more quickly in some parts of the frozen continent, particularly the north-west area known as the Antarctic Peninsula, where in the last 50 years temperatures have risen by about 2.5 degrees Celcius - as much as five times the world average, the Daily Telegraph reported.
A recent report by World Wide Fund is warning that rising temperatures and the resulting loss of sea ice is robbing other species of the emblematic birds of the nesting grounds they need to breed successfully while lading a reduction in the availability of krill which they rely on for food.