Seventy percent of the world's king penguin population could face threats to its habitat by the end of this century, according to a new scientific model.
The researchers say the problem is that the animals' primary source of food is moving farther away from places where the penguins can breed. They're very likely going to have to swim farther for their dinner.
"This is really surprising to us, to find such a massive change is going to happen in such a short time frame," says Emiliano Trucchi, a researcher in evolutionary genetics from the University of Ferrara. The team's research, co-led by Céline Le Bohec of the Université de Strasbourg, was published Monday in Nature Climate Change.
Trucchi tells NPR that king penguins breed only on islands that are ice-free near Antarctica, and there are "just a handful" of those.
While the chicks are reared, he says, the adults take turns swimming to the primary source of food. The penguins swim hundreds of miles, Trucchi says, to gather small fish and other ocean creatures to bring back to their young.