Starting in mid-October, hundreds of tufted puffins began washing up dead on islands in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska.
The birds weren’t sick, but were in an “advanced state of starvation,” National Geographic reported. While the deaths are alarming, scientists are also concerned about them being a harbinger of bad news for other marine species in the northern Pacific Ocean. Record-warm water temperatures in the region earlier this year may have shifted or reduced critical ocean food sources — small fish and zooplankton called copepods — affecting not only the puffins, but also dozens of other marine species, from seals to salmon to crab. “Clearly something very weird is going on,” said Julia Parrish, a biologist at the University of Washington. “It is basically every year now we’re getting some huge mass-mortality event”¦ And the forage fish that everything depends on are taking it in the shorts.”