More Than 500 Dead Penguins Wash Ashore in Brazil

By Chelsea Whyte on July 16, 2012 9:19 PM EDT

penguin
A penguin swims off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. (Photo: REUTERS)

Over the course of a week, hundreds of dead penguins have washed up dead on the southern shores of Brazil, mystifying marine biologists and veterinarians.

The marine biologists are performing autopsies on the 512 birds to determine the cause of the unexplained deaths, reports Time. Researchers said the penguins appear to have been well-fed, not exhausted, and with no obvious injuries and no oil on their bodies, reports BBC News.

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The lack of clues about the cause of death leaves scientists puzzled, but samples from the deceased birds had been taken to Porto Alegre University for further study and researchers say they will release the reason for the mass death within 30 days.

Similar incidents have occurred in the past and have been blamed on shifting ocean currents and colder temperatures. These birds, known as Magellanic Penguins - named for the place where they originate, the Strait of Magellan - were migrating north from Argentina in search of warmer waters and food, reports The Daily Mail.

Magellanic Penguins feast mainly on small fish and marine crustaceans. Their chief predator is the southern sea lion and they usually migrate north up the coast to Sao Paulo during the Southern Hemisphere's winter.

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