Science Snippet: The Plight of the Guillemot

An example of a possible impact of global warming is what appears to be happening to populations of a common seabird called a Murre, or guillemot. Out of water, they look like a cross between a loon and a small penguin. These common circumpolar birds spend their lives at sea, except for a couple of months on land when they breed and molt. They can fly up to 50 mph once airborne, but their real expertise is diving underwater for 600 feet or more in search of food, mainly fish and whatever is available (seaworms, mollusks, etc.). Along the Alaskan and California coast, thousands of dead Murres are washing up on shore, and all of them appear to be starving to death. It is difficult to walk along some Alaskan beaches without stepping on dead birds. According to marine ecologists, the probable cause is that water temperatures in the North Pacific have been 3-7 degrees F warmer than in past years. This would cause the colder water fish Murres feed on to move to other parts of the Northern Pacific coast, and the birds are not finding food where, in the past, it was abundant. (The Economist, Jan. 30, 2016;

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