Skip to main content


Log in

Responses of Pygoscelis adeliae and P. papua populations to environmental changes at Isla 25 de Mayo (King George Island)

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Polar Biology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


As part of a monitoring study of Adélie and Gentoo penguin colonies, birds occupying nests with eggs and chicks in crèches were counted annually from the 1995/1996 to the 2006/2007 seasons at Stranger Point, Isla 25 de Mayo (King George Island), Antarctica. During the study period the Adélie penguin population showed a decrease of 62%. The number of chicks in crèches followed a similar trend, the smallest number occurring in 2002, when it was 63% lower than in 1995/1996. In contrast, the Gentoo breeding population size increased by 68%, while chicks produced increased by 63%. Despite the opposing trends in population size between species, there was a positive relation in their interannual variation, although the extent, and for some years the direction, of the change observed always favoured Gentoo penguins. Breeding success (chicks in crèches/nests with eggs) fluctuated between 0.65 and 1.26 for Adélies and between 0.76 and 1.27 for Gentoo penguins, and did not differ significantly between species. The similar breeding success of these species suggests that the contrasting population trends observed were driven by factors operating over winter. We suggest that current changes in environmental conditions may affect adult birds of both species during the previous winter with different intensity but in a roughly similar way, but that juvenile survival of both species and thus the recruitment of new breeders might be affected differentially, with a much lower survival rate of juvenile Adélie penguins.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Ainley DG, LeResche RE, Sladen WJL (1983) Breeding ecology of the Adélie penguin. University of California Press, Berkeley

    Google Scholar 

  • Barbraud C, Weimerskirch H (2003) Climate and density shape population dynamics of a marine top predator. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 270:2111–2116. doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2488

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carlini AR, Coria RN, Santos MM, Buján SM (2005) The effect of Chinstrap penguins on the breeding performance of Adélie penguins. Folia Zool (Brno) 54:147–158

    Google Scholar 

  • Carlini AR, Coria RN, Santos MM, Libertelli MM, Donini G (2007) Breeding success and population trends in Adélie penguins in areas with low and high levels of human disturbance. Polar Biol 30:917–924. doi:10.1007/s00300-006-0251-1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • CCAMLR (2003) Standard methods for monitoring parameters of predator species. CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program. CCAMLR, Hobart

  • Clarke J, Kerry K, Irvine L, Phillips B (2002) Chick provisioning and breeding success of Adélie penguins at Bechervaise Island over eight successive seasons. Polar Biol 25:21–30. doi:10.1007/s003000100307

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Croxall JP, Trathan PN, Murphy EJ (2002) Environmental change and Antarctic seabird populations. Science 297:1510–1514. doi:10.1126/science.1071987

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Davis LS, McCaffrey FT (1986) Survival analysis of eggs and chicks of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae). Auk 103:379–388

    Google Scholar 

  • Ducklow HW, Baker K, Martinson DG, Quetin LB, Ross RM, Smith RC, Stammerjohn SE, Vernet M, Fraser W (2007) Marine pelagic ecosystems: the West Antarctic Peninsula. Philos Trans R Soc B 362:67–94. doi:10.1098/rstb.2006.1955

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Forcada J, Trathan PN, Reid K, Murphy EJ, Croxall JP (2006) Contrasting population changes in sympatric penguin species in association with climate warming. Glob Chang Biol 12:411–423. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01108.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fraser W, Hofmann E (2003) A predator’s perspective on causal links between climate change, physical forcing and ecosystem response. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 265:1–15. doi:10.3354/meps265001

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fraser WR, Trivelpiece WZ (1996) Factors controlling the distribution of seabirds: winter–summer heterogeneity in the distribution of Adélie penguin populations. Foundations for ecological research west of the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarct Res Ser 70:257–272

    Google Scholar 

  • Fraser WR, Trivelpiece WZ, Ainley D, Trivelpiece SG (1992) Increases in Antarctic penguin populations: reduced competition with whales or a loss of ice due to environmental warming? Polar Biol 11:525–531. doi:10.1007/BF00237945

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Giese M (1996) Effects of human activity on Adélie penguin Pygoscelis adeliae breeding success. Biol Conserv 75:157–164. doi:10.1016/0006-3207(95)00060-7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hinke JT, Salwicka K, Trivelpiece SG, Watters GM, Trivelpiece WZ (2007) Divergent responses in Pygoscelis penguins reveal a common environmental driver. Oecologia 153:845–855. doi:10.1007/s00442-007-0781-4

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hughes L (2000) Biological consequences of global warming, is the signal already apparent? Trends Ecol Evol 15:369–381. doi:10.1016/S0169-5347(00)01940-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ingolfsson O, Hjort C, Humlum O (2003) Glacial and climate history of the Antarctic Peninsula since the last glacial maximum. Arct Antarct Alp Res 35:175–186. doi:10.1657/1523-0430(2003)035[0175:GACHOT]2.0.CO;2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • King JC (1994) Recent climate variability in the vicinity of the Antarctic Peninsula. Int J Climatol 14:357–369. doi:10.1002/joc.3370140402

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leirs H, Stenseth NC, Nichols JD, Hines JE, Verhagen R, Verheyen W (1997) Stochastic seasonality and nonlinear density-dependent factors regulate population size in an African rodent. Nature 389:176–180. doi:10.1038/38271

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Loeb V, Siegel V, Holm-Hansen O, Hewitt R, Fraser W, Trivelpiece W, Trivelpiece S (1997) Effects of sea-ice extent and krill or salp dominance on the Antarctic food web. Nature 387:897–900. doi:10.1038/43174

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sander M, Balbão TC, Polito MJ, Costa ES, Carneiro APB (2007a) Recent decrease in chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica) populations at two of Admiralty Bay’s islets on King George Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Polar Biol 30:659–661. doi:10.1007/s00300-007-0259-1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sander M, Balbão TC, Costa ES, dos Santos CR, Petra MV (2007b) Decline of the breeding population of Pygoscelis antarctica and Pygoscelis adeliae on Penguin Island, South Shetlands, Antarctica. Polar Biol 30:651–664. doi:10.1007/s00300-006-0218-2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Santos MM, Juares MA, Moreira ME, Coria NR, Carlini AR (2008) Éxito reproductivo en el pingüino adelia: es la predación del skua pardo un factor importante? In: Proceedings of the XII Reunión Argentina de Ornitología. Neuquén, Argentina, p 169

  • Siegel V, Loeb V (1995) Recruitment of Antarctic Krill Euphausia superba and possible causes for its variability. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 123:45–56. doi:10.3354/meps123045

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Skvarca P, Rack W, Rott H, Donangelo TL (1999) Climatic trends and the retreat and disintegration of ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula: an overview. Polar Res 18:151–157. doi:10.1111/j.1751-8369.1999.tb00287.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith RC, Stammerjohn SE, Baker KS (1996) Surface air temperature variations in the western Antarctic Peninsula Region. Foundations for ecological research west of Antarctic Peninsula. Antarct Res Ser 70:105–121

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith RC, Ainley D, Baker K, Domack E, Emslie S, Fraser S, Kennet A, Mosley-Thomson E, Stammerjohn S, Vernet M (1999) Marine ecosystem sensitivity to climate change. Bioscience 49:393–404. doi:10.2307/1313632

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Trathan PN, Croxall JP, Murphy EJ (1996) Dynamics of Antarctic penguin populations in relation to inter-annual variability in sea-ice distribution. Polar Biol 16:321–330. doi:10.1007/BF02342178

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Trivelpiece WZ, Fraser W (1996) The breeding biology and distribution of Adélie penguins: adaptations to environmental variability. Foundation for ecological research west of the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarct Res Ser 70:273–285

    Google Scholar 

  • Trivelpiece WZ, Volkman N (1979) Nest-site competition between Adélie and Chinstrap penguins: an ecological interpretation. Auk 96:675–681

    Google Scholar 

  • Trivelpiece WZ, Trivelpiece SG, Volkman NJ (1987) Ecological segregation of Adélie, Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins at King George Island, Antarctica. Ecology 68:351–361. doi:10.2307/1939266

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Williams TD (1995) The penguins. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Woehler EJ, Slip DJ, Robertson LM, Fullagar PJ, Burton HR (1991) The distribution, abundance and status of Adélie penguins Pygoscelis adeliae at the Windmill Island, Wilkes Land, Antarctica. Mar Ornithol 19:1–19

    Google Scholar 

  • Woehler EJ, Penney RL, Creet SM, Burton HR (1994) Impact of human visitors on breeding success and long-term population trends in Adélie penguins at Casey, Antarctica. Polar Biol 14:269–274. doi:10.1007/BF00239175

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yeates GW (1975) Microclimate, climate, and breeding success in Antarctic penguins. In: Stonehouse B (ed) The biology of penguins. University Park Press, Baltimore, pp 397–409

    Google Scholar 

Download references


We want to thank S. Poljak, R Montiel, E. Soibelzon, M. Ciancio, M. Gasco, J. Mennucci and L. Balboni for field assistance. The permit for this work was granted by the Dirección Nacional del Antártico (Environmental Office). This work was supported by the Dirección Nacional del Antártico, Instituto Antártico Argentino. We thank Dr. W. Fraser and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alejandro R. Carlini.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Carlini, A.R., Coria, N.R., Santos, M.M. et al. Responses of Pygoscelis adeliae and P. papua populations to environmental changes at Isla 25 de Mayo (King George Island). Polar Biol 32, 1427–1433 (2009).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: