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El Niño 2015 and The Future of the Galapagos Penguin

In the 1997-98 El Niño, Galapagos Penguin populations were decreased by about 80%. Could the 2015 El Niño threaten the Galapagos penguin with extinction? While this climatic phenomenon has severe implications for any marine animal dependent on the normal Galapagos ecosystem, the endangered Galapagos penguin could take a critical hit if El Niño conditions wipe out their source of food.

The Galapagos Penguin Population Boom, Followed by Famine

As any Galapagos traveler will tell you, even among the countless intriguing endemic species to these ancient isles, one of the most interesting (and perhaps cutest) is the Galapagos Penguin. Unlike its Antarctic cousins, these miniature creatures only grow to be 19 inches tall and under six pounds. They most likely arrived to the Galapagos Islands via the Humboldt Current and can be seen keeping cool in the tropical breeze with their wings at a 45º angle.

In recent years, the Galapagos penguins have enjoyed a population boom, according to a press release by the American Geophysical Union. It indicated that “shifts in trade winds and ocean currents powered a resurgence of endangered Galápagos penguins over the past 30 years, according to a new study. These changes enlarged a cold pool of water the penguins rely on for food and breeding – an expansion that could continue as the climate changes over the coming decades”, the study’s authors said.