Researchers recently discovered something incredibly startling in East Antartica. Found in the sediment by Australian and Chinese scientists, hundreds of mummified penguin carcasses were discovered. The remains were estimated to be between 200 and 750 years old.
According to News.com.au, a major Australian news site, the researchers reported that the remains were most likely a result of a serious weather-related event that caused incredible damage. The scariest part isn't the mass grave, though.
In fact, according to the News.com.au report, the researchers actually remarked that the mass grave isn't that unusual.
The really scary part? Scientists are saying something similar could happen in the near future, thanks to climate change.
Research from the penguin carcass discovery was published in the Journal Of Geophysical Research, and included a conclusion that the mass death most likely happened due to extreme precipitation and the penguins leaving their colonies repeatedly.
Yuesong Gao/Institute of Polar Environment
The paper also discussed the species of penguin affected and how its particular characteristics could have contributed to or exacerbated such an event.
"The Adelie penguin is sensitive to climatic and environmental changes," the research states. The paper goes on to note that studies of this species of penguin and how it handles climate change support the conclusion that a future destructive weather event may cause similar damage to penguins.
Although Adelie penguins aren't currently endangered or extinct, it's always important to keep track of this type of research to avoid future endangerment or extinction.
There are actually a ton of Adelie penguins in East Antartica at any given time (millions and millions and millions of them, in fact), and this could also explain why and how such a large number of them could die at once (since they rely on their groups to survive).
In any case, though, the research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research is an important reminder of the realities of climate change both now and in the past. Plus, even if Adelie penguins are far from extinct, protecting species is always important — whether there are millions, thousands or just hundreds of the animal on Earth.