Full circumpolar migration ensures evolutionary unity in the Emperor penguin

Nat Commun. 2016 Jun 14;7:11842. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11842.


Defining reliable demographic models is essential to understand the threats of ongoing environmental change. Yet, in the most remote and threatened areas, models are often based on the survey of a single population, assuming stationarity and independence in population responses. This is the case for the Emperor penguin Aptenodytes forsteri, a flagship Antarctic species that may be at high risk continent-wide before 2100. Here, using genome-wide data from the whole Antarctic continent, we reveal that this top-predator is organized as one single global population with a shared demography since the late Quaternary. We refute the view of the local population as a relevant demographic unit, and highlight that (i) robust extinction risk estimations are only possible by including dispersal rates and (ii) colony-scaled population size is rather indicative of local stochastic events, whereas the species' response to global environmental change is likely to follow a shared evolutionary trajectory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics*
  • Animal Migration / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Antarctic Regions
  • Biological Evolution
  • Climate Change
  • Female
  • Genome*
  • Male
  • Population Density
  • Population Dynamics
  • Reproduction / genetics*
  • Spheniscidae / classification
  • Spheniscidae / genetics*

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.2949508.v1