By far the world’s largest penguin species, emperor penguins can grow up to 4 feet tall and weigh more than 80 pounds! It is the only Antarctic animal that breeds during the harsh winter, when hundreds or even thousands of penguins huddle together in colonies for warmth. Every year, pairs of emperor penguins dutifully raise a single chick. Male penguins incubate the egg for two months without eating a single meal, while females forage for food. They take over child-rearing duties when the females finally return.
The penguin’s survival depends heavily on the abundance of food, such as krill, which thrives on algae that grow on the underside of sea ice. With warmer temperatures, the sea ice melts, leading to less algae and less krill. Not only does a declining krill supply mean less food for chicks, but it also prevents penguin parents from building up the energy they need for those long periods of incubating the egg without eating.
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