The deaths of 745 penguins washed up on the shores of Brazil this week have been attributed to natural causes, but 30 are being used for more intensive studies. Researchers at the Brazilian Center for Coastal Studies at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil confirmed today that the evidence pointed to natural causes, but stated their intentions to conduct further research.
The Celima centre launched its most intensive study to date into bird deaths when over 700 dead penguins were found washed up on 15th June on the shore of Rio Grande do Sul. It concluded in a press release today that the fatalities were due to many young and inexperienced birds migrating for the first time but will be conducting further necropsies on 30 birds and releasing their findings at the end of the month.
According to researchers, it is not uncommon for younger birds to succumb to “survival of the fittest” during this annual migration, however this fatality count has been much higher than in previous years.
“The animals usually migrate from Argentina this time of year in search of food and warmer weather, and each year, some do wash up” said biologist Mauricio Tavares “but over 500 is a very, very high number.”
Penguins migrate between the months of March and September from Chile and Argentina towards the north, in the direction of Sao Paulo. The beginning of the winter season in the southern hemisphere means the penguins move north in search of shelter and food. The trips can be hazardous however, with many dying along the way due to hunger and exhaustion.
In 2010, more than 550 penguins washed up on the Atlantic coast after dying of starvation. There is currently no cause to believe this is the case for the recent deaths. The full evidence is due by the end of July.