Female Magellanic Penguins Become Stranded More Often Because They Travel Further

Source: The Guardian/Nicola Davis

Photo: David/Wikimedia Commons 

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Every year, thousands of Magellanic penguins get stranded along the coast of South America – but puzzlingly, about 75% of those that get stuck are female. Now scientists say they have worked out what is behind the gender imbalance: the females migrate further north than males.

Magellanic penguins finish breeding in Patagonia in February, and during the subsequent winter months head north, reaching as far as Brazil, in search of anchovies. But every year thousands become stranded, with many airlifted to safety onboard military aircraft.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, researchers in Japan and Argentina report how they attached tracking devices to eight male and six female penguins in 2017 and tracked where the birds went after they left the breeding grounds of Cabo dos Bahía in Argentina and began the migration north in April.

Previously it was unknown whether males and females took different paths or not.

“Although some assumptions are made, the exact reason for the female-biased stranding has been unknown due to the lack of information on their behaviour outside the breeding season, despite the growing focus on the conservation of this species,” said Takashi Yamamoto.

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Photo: David/Wikimedia Commons

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