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Near the southern tip of South America, thousands of ladies — wives, mothers, anchovy enthusiasts — are vanishing from their nests.
The females in question are Magellanic penguins — a mid-size species of black-and-white bird native to South America's Patagonia region. When not breeding in the latter part of the year, both male and female members of the species migrate north toward Uruguay and Brazil to hunt for the tasty anchovies that call those waters home. Over the last decade, however, scientists have observed an upsetting trend: some penguins are swimming too far north — sometimes hundreds of miles away from their breeding grounds — and getting stuck there.
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Takashi Yamamoto, lead author of the new study and a researcher at the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Tokyo, wanted to find out what was happening, and why female penguins were disproportionately afflicted. So, he and several colleagues tagged a small group of 14 Magellanic penguins (eight males and six females) with GPS ankle monitors, then watched where the birds strayed after their breeding period ended in early 2017.
Months - Observations - Team - Pattern - Spring
After several months of observations, the team saw a clear pattern. During their spring and summer migrations, male penguins tended to dive deeper and stay closer to their Patagonian breeding grounds; female penguins swam closer to the water's surface, but migrated significantly farther north than their male counterparts.
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