Well-preserved remains of bone, tissue, and eggshell of Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) have been recovered from numerous abandoned colonies in the Ross Sea region, Antarctica. Radiocarbon dates on these remains provide an occupation history for this species ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of years ago. We completed 62 new radiocarbon dates on these remains, which now indicate that an open-water marine environment existed in the Ross Sea from ca. 45,000 to 27,000 14C yr before present (B.P.) and provide constraints for the timing of the last advance of the Ross Ice Sheet. Penguins did not recolonize the Ross Sea until ca. 8000 calendar years (cal yr) B.P., after the early Holocene retreat of the Ross Ice Sheet. Two subsequent periods of abandonment at 5000–4000 and 2000–1100 cal yr B.P. correlate with cooling episodes that caused unfavorable marine conditions for breeding penguins. Most modern colonies were established only within the past 2000 yr.

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