Seabirds’ response to abrupt climate change transformed sub-Antarctic island ecosystems — ScienceDaily

The Falkland Islands are a South Atlantic refuge for some of the world’s most important seabird species, including five species of penguins, Great Shearwaters, and White-chinned Petrels. In recent years, their breeding grounds in the coastal tussac (Poa flabellata) grasslands have come under increasing pressure from sheep grazing and erosion. And unlike other regions of the globe, there has been no long-term monitoring of the responses of these burrowing and ground nesting seabirds to climate change.

A 14,000-year paleoecological reconstruction of the sub-Antarctic islands done by an international research team led by The University of Maine (UMaine) including Dr Moriaki YASUHARA from the School of Biological Sciences and The Swire Institute of Marine Science, The University of Hong Kong (HKU), has found that seabird establishment occurred during a period of regional cooling 5,000 years ago. Their populations, in turn, shifted the Falkland Island ecosystem through the deposit of high concentrations

Read More

Two fossils from a group of extinct seabirds represent the largest individuals ever found — ScienceDaily

Fossils recovered from Antarctica in the 1980s represent the oldest giant members of an extinct group of birds that patrolled the southern oceans with wingspans of up to 21 feet that would dwarf the 11½-foot wingspan of today’s largest bird, the wandering albatross.

Called pelagornithids, the birds filled a niche much like that of today’s albatrosses and traveled widely over Earth’s oceans for at least 60 million years. Though a much smaller pelagornithid fossil dates from 62 million years ago, one of the newly described fossils — a 50 million-year-old portion of a bird’s foot — shows that the larger pelagornithids arose just after life rebounded from the mass extinction 65 million years ago, when the relatives of birds, the dinosaurs, went extinct. A second pelagornithid fossil, part of a jaw bone, dates from about 40 million years ago.

“Our fossil discovery, with its estimate of a 5-to-6-meter wingspan —

Read More