Puffin mass deaths bear links to climate change

May 31, 2019, 7:38 AM EDT
(Source: Billy Idle/flickr)
(Source: Billy Idle/flickr)

St. Paul Island, Alaska, located in the Bering Sea, witnessed poignant scenes between October 2016 and January 2017, a phase when more than 350 seabirds, including tufted puffins, horned puffins, and crested auklets, washed ashore dead.

The researchers who had camped on the island for a study found no signs of disease and infection in these marine creatures, inferring from the emaciated bodies that the mass die-off resulted from starvation, a conclusion that is a good first indication of climate change at play for this state of the hapless seabirds, notes Discover.

The researchers blame the warming waters of the Bering Sea for these deaths. As sea surface temperatures rise, zooplankton biomass decreases and so does the population of fish and other marine invertebrates that feed on it. Eventually, the impact of declining populations cascades through the food chain, starving seabirds like puffins, reports Earther.