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    Feb 15, 2016

    Huge iceberg in Antarctica kills 150,000 penguins


    SOME 150,000 penguins died after a massive iceberg grounded near their colony in Antarctica, forcing them to make a lengthy trek to find food, scientists say in a newly published study.

    The B09B iceberg, measuring some 100 sq km, grounded in Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica in December 2010, the researchers from Australia and New Zealand wrote in the Antarctic Science journal.

    The iceberg's grounding meant the penguins had to walk more than 60km to find food, impeding their breeding attempts, said the researchers from the University of New South Wales' Climate Change Research Centre and New Zealand's West Coast Penguin Trust.

    The Adelie penguin population at the bay's Cape Denison was measured to be about 160,000 in February 2011.

    But, by December 2013, it had plunged to an estimated 10,000, they said.

    "The Cape Denison population could be extirpated within 20 years unless B09B relocates or the now perennial fast ice within the bay breaks out," they wrote in the research published this month.

    Fast ice is sea ice which forms and stays fast along the coast.

    During their census in December 2013, the researchers said "hundreds of abandoned eggs were noted and the ground was littered with the freeze-dried carcasses of previous season's chicks".

    The researchers said the study had "important implications" for the wider East Antarctic if the current trend of increasing sea ice continued.

    Sea ice around Antarctica is increasing, in contrast to the Arctic where global warming is causing ice to melt and glaciers to shrink.