Penguin chicks are losing their feathers

Naked Magellanic penguin chick

…and we don’t know why. However, for some reason we’re not guessing organic toxins from oil spills and industry: “So far, the possible causes include pathogens, thyroid disorders, nutrient imbalances, or genetics.”
The loss of feathers means that chicks lose heat, grow more slowly, and are more likely to die. The disorder appeared in 2006 on both sides of the South Atlantic in different penguin species, Magellanic and African. To me, that suggests a wind-borne or water-borne problem, perhaps contaminating food, not “genetics.” I suspect organochlorines, CFCs, and the like. Has anyone done a biological assay of a dead chick?

The problem began in 2006, peaked in 2007 with 97% of the chicks suffering feather loss, and subsided in 2008 (for now).


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