Supercolony Of Penguins Discovered On Antarctic Island

04 March, 2018, 02:02 | Author: Rolando Keller
  • Pengui_and_Drone

On an expedition to an icy island chain the Danger Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula's northern tip, researchers discovered a massive supercolony of more than 1.5 million Adélie penguins, according to a study published March 2 in Scientific Reports.

Four years ago, Ms Lynch teamed up with Mathew Schwaller from NASA and examined satellite images that hinted at a curiously large number of penguins in the area.

The team conducted the first ever comprehensive census of the flightless birds using aerial drones, satellite photos, ship-borne photo surveillance and on-the-ground nest counting during a survey trip aboard the M/V Hans Hansson from December 9-18, 2015.

The geography of the islands explains how these penguins, whose distinguishing features are the white rims around their eyes, have survived without detection: even in summer, the area is so "socked in with sea ice that it is very hard to get a ship through", Lynch also told the WSJ.

Scientists suspect that decline has something to do with reductions in sea-ice, which is an important habitat for krill, the small crustaceans that form a key part of the penguin diet.

It could also help them understand what is causing other populations to decline when these penguins are thriving. Well, the Danger Islands are fairly remote, even by Antarctica standards.

There, using drone footage, they counted 751,527 nests.

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"The drone lets you fly in a grid over the island, taking pictures once per second".

A drone image of penguins in the Danger Islands. "You can then stitch them together into a huge collage that shows the entire landmass in 2D and 3D", said Hanumant Singh, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern University.

Now that scientists know where the Adélie Penguins are, they can also work to protect them. The number of Adelie penguins discovered on the Danger Islands represents more than all the recorded populations in the rest of the Antarctic Peninsula region combined.

Researchers estimate the Danger Islands hold the largest colonies of Adelie penguins in Antarctica and the third- and fourth-largest colonies in the world. These also provide evidence to support the proposed Marine Protected Areas near the Antarctic Peninsula.

The authors highlighted that the area inhabited by this large group of penguins seems not to be affected by climate change and the human presence has been non-existent until now.

"The sheer size of what we were looking at took our breath away", one of the researchers with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Dr.



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