Patagonia Penguins: Adapting to Survive

music
ambience: penguins

Here on the rocky beach at Punto Tombo, on the coast of Patagonia, thousands of Magellanic penguins come together each year, to build nests and to raise their young. But this strip of desolate shoreline is just the edge of a vast desert that’s larger than the state of Texas. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Graham Harris is a veterinarian and field researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“The reason Patagonia is desert is that the prevailing winds are westerlies. They discharge their moisture on the Andes, on the west side of Patagonia, so by the time they cross the Andes, they’re really dry winds. So, virtually whole of Patagonia, which is basically flat, is very dry.”

With all of that wind and low moisture, Eastern Patagonia is a tough place for plants and animals to survive. Most life here is concentrated along the coastline, where the ocean provides plenty of food and protection from predators. Penguins and other marine mammals, have adapted to these conditions over time.

“They actually, during the course of evolution, have lost the ability to fly in favor of speed under water with which to catch their prey. The evolution of penguins obviously has a lot to do with this opportunity of finding food at sea, and for this they needed to develop speed under water. And, consequently became really very fish like.”

Since the 1980’s, The Wildlife Conservation Society has been working to boost declining penguin populations in Patagonia. For more information check out their website at wcs.org.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Patagonia Penguins: Adapting to Survive

Penguins have adapted to the harsh conditions of Patagonia where they flourish as adept ocean dwellers.
Air Date:11/12/2003
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: penguins

Here on the rocky beach at Punto Tombo, on the coast of Patagonia, thousands of Magellanic penguins come together each year, to build nests and to raise their young. But this strip of desolate shoreline is just the edge of a vast desert that's larger than the state of Texas. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Graham Harris is a veterinarian and field researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"The reason Patagonia is desert is that the prevailing winds are westerlies. They discharge their moisture on the Andes, on the west side of Patagonia, so by the time they cross the Andes, they're really dry winds. So, virtually whole of Patagonia, which is basically flat, is very dry."

With all of that wind and low moisture, Eastern Patagonia is a tough place for plants and animals to survive. Most life here is concentrated along the coastline, where the ocean provides plenty of food and protection from predators. Penguins and other marine mammals, have adapted to these conditions over time.

"They actually, during the course of evolution, have lost the ability to fly in favor of speed under water with which to catch their prey. The evolution of penguins obviously has a lot to do with this opportunity of finding food at sea, and for this they needed to develop speed under water. And, consequently became really very fish like."

Since the 1980's, The Wildlife Conservation Society has been working to boost declining penguin populations in Patagonia. For more information check out their website at wcs.org.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music