Adélie penguins monitored by camera


This video is called Adélie Penguins of Antarctica.

From Wildlife Extra:

Remote camera monitors penguins in remote Antarctic

We in the west are used to security cameras tracking our ever move but for a colony of penguins in the Antarctic it is a whole new experience.

Two prototype satellite-enabled cameras, developed by Cambridge Consultants and ZSL, were given to the project Penguins Lifelines, run by Tom Hart, which researches the threats to Antarctic penguins.

Both cameras are located on the Yalour Islands to study the Near Threatened Adélie penguins, and despite the frosty frigid conditions they … still send back up to eight images a day.

The cameras are designed to work in the most remote areas on earth and run on a single long-life battery, and use infra-red LED flash lighting to work at night as well as during the day.

Penguins are declining globally and these cameras could help scientists understand exactly why and help conserve those left. Currently penguin research relies on visiting remote colonies every year, which means only a small proportion of colonies are monitored.

“The unique thing about this system is the fact we can change the configuration of the system remotely using the Iridium satellites“, said Marion Campbell, from Cambridge Consultants. “We don’t need to be there physically, in order to, for adjust the timing delay between the trigger and the moment when the actual picture is taken”

For more information on the project click HERE.

The link at Wildlife Extra did not work; I have replaced it here with a working one.

Whale-watching in Australia, war in the Falklands


This video from Australia is called Migaloo the White Whale Encounter.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

How to start a war and win an election

Friday 4th July 2014

Whale-watching in Australia leads PETER FROST to a forgotten story of a deception that led to the Falkland’s war

A year or so ago Ann and I spent time in Australia driving down the east coast in a motor-home. Highlight of the trip was watching the many whales from the headlands and beaches.

It was there we heard tales of a pure white humpback whale. It was a hard story to swallow, but the rumours of this great white whale had gone up and down the coast for over 25 years.

Now, it seems, the stories are proved true. Migaloo — his aboriginal name means White Fella — has been spotted and photographed close to Sydney and this has enabled whale scientists to discover a lot more about this amazing animal.

Migaloo is one of the few albino humpbacks in the world. Sadly as an albino he is more susceptible to UV damage in the bright Australian sunshine than darker humpbacks.

Indeed Migaloo watchers are worried about the 28-year-old whale’s health. Healthy humpbacks can live for 50 years but yellow and red patches on Migaloo’s skin suggest he may have skin disease or even cancer.

Humpbacks do bump into each other at play or when jostling for position when mating and it may be this that has caused the whale’s skin damage.

Meanwhile Migaloo is being studied and looked after. Watercraft are not allowed within 500 metres, aircraft no closer than 2,000 feet.

Watching these monarchs of the ocean prompted us to take a look at the history of British and Australian whaling.

We visited the old whaling station ports of Ballina and Byron Bay to learn a little about this huge, if cruel, industry.

The need for food fats in post-war Europe was critical. In the 1950s and 1960s Australia built a huge fleet of ex-wartime wooden Fairmile motor torpedo boats to hunt and kill thousands of whales. The whale oil was almost entirely used for the British margarine trade.

Scottish “Ten pound Pom” Harry Robertson recorded this hard life in song and story and on an amazing website brings this history alive — www.harryrobertson.net.

The Australian whaling fleet also ventured into Antarctic waters as competitors to the vast Scottish whaling company Christian Salvesen which built several hugely profitable whaling stations in the southern oceans — the first in the Falklands in 1907 and then another on the island of South Georgia. Their station at Leith Harbour, South Georgia, was named after the company’s home port in Scotland.

It was to South Georgia that Constantino Davidoff — an Argentinian scrap dealer — came in March 1982. He had a £180,000 contract from Christian Salvesen to dismantle the company’s derelict whaling station.

At the end of 1981 Davidoff had sought approval from the British ambassador in Buenos Aires. He had also spoken to the Falkland Island authorities.

Margaret Thatcher in London thought this might make a great excuse to flex her muscles in the South Atlantic. She declared the scrap metal workers were the advance party of an Argentinian invasion of South Georgia and told the press that the scrap-men had planted the Argentinian flag and were singing the Argentinian national anthem.

Thatcher despatched marines from the Falkland Islands and 39 scrap metal workers were detained. Argentina sent its troops to rescue them and landed in the Falkland Islands.

Two previously friendly countries were at war over a scrap of unwanted land 8,000 miles from London and 900 people would die before Argentina surrendered on June 14 1982.

Thatcher and the Tories would storm home in the 1983 general election and that, of course, was the whole point of the exercise.

In an ultimate irony, British forces contracted Argentinian scrap dealers to clear away the post-war debris of the many Falkland battles.

Emperor penguins, new research


This video is called Emperor penguins – The Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth – BBC.

From Wildlife Extra:

Emperor penguins can relocate to beat global warming

Contrary to common belief emperor penguins are able to relocate to new nesting sites, a new study suggests.

The researchers from University of Minnesota used satellite images to monitor penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula and found six instances in three years in which emperors did not return to the same location to breed, and one totally new colony.

“Our research showing that colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviours we thought we understood about emperor penguins,” said lead author Michelle LaRue.

“If we assume that these birds come back to the same locations every year, without fail, these new colonies we see on satellite images wouldn’t make any sense.

“These birds didn’t just appear out of thin air – they had to have come from somewhere else. This suggests that emperor penguins move among colonies.

“That means we need to revisit how we interpret population changes and the causes of those changes.”

The satalite images also show that the penguin colony at Pointe Géologie is not as isolated as once thought.This news compiled with the other findings, could mean that the decline in numbers that took place during the 1970s, (from 6,000 breeding pairs to 3,000). was not due to decreased survival rates caused by the warming temperatures.

Instead they could simply have decided to relocate.

“It’s possible that birds have moved away from Pointe Géologie to these other spots and that means that maybe those banded birds didn’t die,” LaRue said. “If we want to accurately conserve the species, we really need to know the basics. We’ve just learned something unexpected, and we should rethink how we interpret colony fluctuations.”

See also here. And here.

Mysterious Antarctic sound turns out to be whales


This video is called Close Encounter with Minke Whale in Antarctica.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Scientists solve mystery of Southern Ocean ‘quacking’ sound

Noise heard in the Southern Ocean has been attributed to the underwater chatter of the Antarctic minke whale

Taku Dzimwasha

Wednesday 23 April 2014 15.05 BST

The mystery source of a strange quacking sound coming from the ocean has been discovered.

The so-called “bio-duck” noise, which occurs in the winter and spring in the Southern Ocean, had confused researchers for over 50 years.

Scientists have now attributed the sound to underwater chatter of the Antarctic minke whale.

Submarine crews first heard the quacking sound – a series of repetitive, low-pitched pulsing sounds – in the 1960s.

Lead researcher Denise Risch, from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration north-east fisheries science centre in Massachusetts, told the BBC: “Over the years there have been several suggestions, but no one was able to really show this species was producing the sound until now.”

The research team attached suction-cup sensor tags equipped with underwater microphones to a pair of minke whales off the western Antarctic peninsula in February last year, with the aim of monitoring their feeding behaviour and movements.

These were the first acoustic tags deployed on Antarctic minke whales, and the team compared their recordings with years worth of collected audio recordings to match the sounds. Researchers were able to identify the quacking noise, as well as downward-sweeping sounds previously linked to minke whales.

The sounds “can now be attributed unequivocally to the Antarctic minke whale,” Risch and her team wrote in a study published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Researchers are hoping to retrospectively analyse previous recordings to investigate “seasonal occurrence and migration patterns” of the whales.

Scientists remain puzzled as to why the whales produce the sound, but it is thought that the animals make the noise close to the surface before they make a deep dives to feed.

Risch added: “Identifying their sounds will allow us to use passive acoustic monitoring to study this species. That can give us the timing of their migration – the exact timing of when the animals appear in Antarctic waters and when they leave again – so we can learn about migratory patterns, about their relative abundance in different areas and their movement patterns between the areas.”

Giant Waves Breaking Up Antarctica’s Sea Ice: here.

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Antarctic emperor penguins and global warming


This video is called Emperor penguins – The Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth – BBC.

From Wildlife Extra:

Antarctic emperor penguins may be adapting to warmer temperatures

January 2014: Antarctic emperor penguins could be capable of adapting to environmental change declares a new study. Four colonies were studied by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the Australian Antarctic Division and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego in California.

Their results suggest that unexpected breeding behaviour may be a sign that the birds are adapting to climate change. It was found that when the sea ice formed later than usual penguin colonies moved from their traditional breeding grounds to the much thicker floating ice shelves that surround the continent. This is positive news for the birds’ future.

At the moment the emperor penguins’ reliance on sea ice as a breeding platform and concern about changing patterns of sea ice have both led to the species being designated as ‘near threatened’ by the IUCN Red List.

Barbara Wienecke of the Australian Antarctic Division said, “These new findings are an important step forward in helping us understand what the future may hold for these animals, however, we cannot assume that this behaviour is widespread in other penguin populations. The ability of these four colonies to relocate to a different environment – from sea ice to ice shelf – in order to cope with local circumstances, was totally unexpected. We have yet to discover whether or not other species may also be adapting to changing environmental conditions.”

Lead author, Peter Fretwell of BAS said, “Satellite observations captured of one colony in 2008, 2009 and 2010 show that the concentration of annual sea ice was dense enough to sustain a colony. But this was not the case in 2011 and 2012 when the sea ice did not form until a month after the breeding season began. During those years the birds moved up onto the neighbouring floating ice shelf to raise their young.

“What’s particularly surprising is that climbing up the sides of a floating ice shelf – which at this site can be up to 30 metres high – is a very difficult manoeuvre for emperor penguins. Whilst they are very agile swimmers they have often been thought of as clumsy out of the water.”

See also here.

Why does the Antarctic hold such allure for those who go there? Alok Jha speaks to explorers drawn by the power of the ice, the extraordinary wildlife, the adventure and the isolation: here.

How many emperor penguins live in the Ragnhild colony in Antarctica? Here.

Like an ice age radiator, heat from volcanoes helped Antarctica’s plants and bugs survive Earth’s glacial periods, scientists think based on the result of a new study: here.

Ancient Antarctic Atmosphere Dated Via Krypton | Video here.

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Antarctic sea anemone discovery


This video says about itself:

Antarctic vent octopus

5 jan 2012

Communities of species previously unknown to science have been discovered on the seafloor near Antarctica, clustered in the hot, dark environment surrounding hydrothermal vents.

Working from the Royal Research Ship James Cook, scientists discovered new species of yeti crab, starfish, barnacles, sea anemones, and potentially an octopus.

From New Scientist:

Ice-loving sea anemones found in Antarctica

31 December 2013 by Catherine de Lange

Talk about being chilled out: a species of sea anemone has been found on the underside of Antarctica‘s ice sheets. They are the only marine animals known to live embedded in the ice, and no one is sure how they survive.

Frank Rack of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and colleagues made the surprise find when they drilled through the ice for a geological studyMovie Camera. They were using a camera attached to a remote-controlled drill to explore the underside of the Ross Ice Shelf when they discovered large numbers of the white anemones, which they christened Edwardsiella andrillae, burrowed inside the ice with only their tentacles dangling into the water.

Marymegan Daly at the Ohio State University analysed samples, but dissecting the creatures revealed little – they looked just like any other anemone.

“I would never have guessed that they live embedded in the ice because there is nothing different about their anatomy,” she says.

Other species burrow into surfaces by inching their bodies in or digging with their tentacles, but ice should be too hard, says Daly, who thinks the new species may secrete chemicals to dissolve the ice. It is also unclear how they survive without freezing, and how they reproduce.

“We would like to have some genetic information so we can answer some of these questions,” Daly says. Unfortunately, as the team were not expecting to find animal life, they only had a preservative with them that could fix the animals’ anatomy but destroyed their DNA.

Journal reference: PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083476

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New Antarctic animal species discoveries


This video says about itself:

Under the Antarctic Ice – Beauty of The Nature.

From Wildlife Extra:

A plethora of new species recovered from Amundsen Sea

December 2013: More than 30 new, and, as yet unclassified, species of marine life have been discovered during a science expedition to the Amundsen Sea off Pine Island Bay in Antarctica. The Amundsen Sea is one of the least explored areas of the Southern Ocean. It contains several deep troughs and basins formed during previous ice ages. Some are more than 1,600 metres deep.

During the months February to April, the scientists were able to navigate right up to the continental ice-shelf edge and carry out a number of trawls. A total of 5,469 specimens, from 275 species, were brought to the surface.

As well as the new species, some of those recovered had not been seen in Antarctic waters before. Echinoderms were the most abundant of these. This group includes starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Among the new species to Antarctica was a bathysciadiid limpet which was found feeding on the beak of a dead octopus.

Lead author, Katrin Linse, said: “Unlike many other seas around Antarctica, the Amundsen Sea shelf was not dominated by large sedentary sponges but instead by mobile echinoderms (starfish, urchins, brittlestars and sea cucumbers) and a community of similar animals which inhabit the on-shelf basins.

“The Amundsen Sea is an area of rapid change due to ice shelf breakup. Until now we knew nothing about the benthic fauna living here. Our recent study gives us a first insight into the biodiversity of this region and can serve as a baseline to observe future changes.”

Penguin evolution, new research


This video from Antarctica is called PENGUIN BLOOPERS.

From Phys.org today:

Cooler climate helped evolution of penguins

3 hours ago

Penguins waddled into the book of life around 20 million years ago and diversified thanks to global cooling which opened up Antarctica for habitation, a study said on Wednesday.

Scientists led by Sankar Subramanian of Griffith University in Australia sequenced telltale signatures of DNA from the genome of 11 penguin species that are alive today.

They compared these stretches to make a “molecular clock“—a way of calculating how species evolve on the basis of regular mutations in DNA.

By this yardstick, the forerunner of all penguins lived 20.4 million years ago, according to the paper, published in the British journal Biology Letters.

If so, penguins showed up more recently than thought. Previous estimates put their emergence at 41-51 million years ago.

Penguins then diversified around 11 to 16 million years ago to form most of the species that are around today, according to the study.

“This overlaps with the sharp decline in Antarctic temperatures that began approximately 12 million years ago, suggesting a possible relationship between climate change and penguin evolution.”