Wednesday, July 23, 2008


McClatchy Newspapers - The discovery of hundreds of young penguins washing up along the Brazilian shoreline over the past month has sparked a scientific mystery over what may have led the birds thousands of miles astray.

The so-called Magellanic penguins began appearing in late June. Many of them dead or barely alive, they arrived on beaches all over south-eastern Brazil about 2,500 miles from their native southern Patagonia. Some of the penguins have since been spotted as far north as the warm-water beaches of the Brazilian state of Bahia, another 600 miles up the Atlantic coast.

Although the penguins regularly migrate up to southern Brazil in search of food, the sheer quantity of penguins washing up farther away than normal has prompted worries that human activity may be throwing off the animals' migratory cycle.

"The penguin population is intimately linked to their supplies of food, so this suggests something is happening to the population of fish they eat," said biologist Marcelo Bertellotti at the National Patagonic Center in Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

"It appears the penguins are not finding fish where they normally do, and one reason could be that warming waters and climate change have impacted the fish population."