MEPS 262:19-25 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps262019

Late-Holocene initiation of ice-free ecosystems in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica

Steven D. Emslie1,*, Paul Arthur Berkman2, David G. Ainley3, Larry Coats4, Michael Polito1

1Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Carolina, 601 S. College Road, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, USA
2Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA
3H. T. Harvey & Associates, 3150 Almaden Expressway, Suite 145, San Jose, California 95118, USA
4Quaternary Sciences Program, Department of Geology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, USA

ABSTRACT: New data on marine sediments, seawater paleotemperatures, and the occupation history of Adélie penguins indicate that modern ice-free conditions in the southern Ross Sea developed only within the last 1000 yr. Here we show that penguins permanently abandoned the southern Victoria Land Coast 2000 yr ago when extensive sea-ice cover blocked access to ice-free terrain for breeding. The first colonization of Ross Island in East McMurdo Sound, where over 300000 penguins breed today, did not commence until after 1170 yr BP when coastal areas became exposed from under the Ross Ice Shelf. Our results demonstrate that investigations of abandoned penguin colonies can provide increased resolution to Holocene paleoclimatic records and paleoceanographic conditions in Antarctica.


KEY WORDS: Antarctica · Adélie penguins · Late Holocene · Paleoclimate · Ross Sea · Sea ice


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