Climate change and overfishing off Africa’s southern tip have set a “trap” for endangered African penguins leaving their nests.
The young penguins swim thousands of miles from where they hatched, following biological signposts advertising a buffet of anchovies and sardines. What they don’t realize is the buffet seems to have closed.
When the birds arrive, their favorite food is almost gone, replaced by less nutritious gobies and jellyfish. This is what scientists call an “ecological trap,” in which animals mistakenly settle in habitats degraded by environmental changes.
A new study in Current Biology describes a recently discovered trap off the coast of South Africa and Namibia that has likely reduced local penguin populations by 50% and hurt juvenile birds’ chances of survival.