African penguin language, new research, videos


This video is called African Penguins go for a swim – Mountain of the Sea – BBC.

From Salon.com:

Thursday, July 31, 2014 05:12 PM +0200

How to talk to African penguins, in 6 simple videos

Researchers identified distinct calls used to express loneliness, anger, hunger and ecstasy

Lindsay Abrams

After 104 days of careful observation, researchers at the University of Turin, in Italy, think they’ve finally figured out what African penguins are “talking” about. Based on the sounds and behaviors of a colony of 48 captive penguins at the Zoom Torino zoo, the team identified six distinct vocalizations used by adults and juveniles to express just about everything that needs saying: from loneliness, to anger, to mutually experienced ecstasy.

“Vocal communication allows us to understand the many different aspects of the biology of this species,” lead author Livio Favaro explained to the Guardian. “Penguins have less sophisticated vocal mechanisms compared to song birds, but they have very sophisticated mechanisms to encode information in songs.”

The findings, written up in the journal PLOS ONE, are accompanied by a set of videos illustrating the calls. Watch them a few times, and you, too, can become fluent in the endangered species‘ language.

Contact calls are emitted by individual penguins when out of sight from their colony or partner:

The agonistic call is often emitted during fights or as a warning for other penguins to stay away. The birds stand up and stretch their necks out toward the target of their aggression:

In the ecstatic display song, the longest and loudest of African penguin calls, the birds spread their feet, stretch their neck and face upward and hold their wings out horizontally to advertise their availability to potential mates. It kind of sounds like a donkey, the researchers note, which is how the African penguin earned the nickname “jackass”:

The mutual ecstatic song is sung when mates finally get together. Partners, the researchers observed, “often emitted this call simultaneously, overlapping in a duet” — and are known to make the sound when others attempt to intrude on their twosome:

Begging moans, a newly described call, are only emitted by juveniles, and only until they’re either fed, or their parents go away:

The youngest of penguins, those under 3 months old, will emit long series of these high-pitched begging peeps for minutes on end until their parents regurgitate some food for them:

All penguin species are continuing to be at risk from habitat degradation and loss a new study finds: here.

Giant fossil penguin discovery in Antarctic


This video says about itself:

5 October 2010

Scientists have unearthed fossilized remains of a five-foot-tall (150-centimeter-tall) penguin in present-day Peru. The 36-million-year-old fossil sheds light on bird evolution, according to National Geographic grantee Julia Clarke. Video produced by the University of Texas at Austin.

From New Scientist:

Extinct mega penguin was tallest and heaviest ever

01 August 2014 by Jeff Hecht

Forget emperor penguins, say hello to the colossus penguin. Newly unearthed fossils have revealed that Antarctica was once home to the biggest species of penguin ever discovered. It was 2 metres long and weighed a hefty 115 kilograms.

Palaeeudyptes klekowskii lived 37 to 40 million years ago. This was “a wonderful time for penguins, when 10 to 14 species lived together along the Antarctic coast”, says Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche of the La Plata Museum in Argentina.

She has been excavating fossil deposits on Seymour Island, off the Antarctic peninsula. This was a warmer region 40 million years ago, with a climate like that of present-day Tierra del Fuego, the islands at the southern tip of South America.

The site has yielded thousands of penguin bones. Earlier this year, Acosta Hospitaleche reported the most complete P. klekowskii skeleton yet, although it contained only about a dozen bones, mostly from the wings and feet (Geobios, DOI: 10.1016/j.geobios.2014.03.003).

Now she has uncovered two bigger bones. One is part of a wing, and the other is a tarsometatarsus, formed by the fusion of ankle and foot bones. The tarsometatarsus measures a record 9.1 centimetres. Based on the relative sizes of bones in penguin skeletons, Acosta Hospitaleche estimates P. klekowskii was 2.01 meters long from beak tip to toes.

Its height will have been somewhat less than its length owing to the way penguins stand. But it was nevertheless larger than any known penguin.

Fossil and present penguins

Emperor penguins can weigh 46 kilograms and reach lengths of 1.36 metres, 0.2 metres above their standing height. Another extinct penguin used to hold the height record, at around 1.5 metres tall.

P. klekowskii‘s tarsometatarsus “is the longest foot bone I’ve ever seen. This is definitely a big penguin,” says Dan Ksepka at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. However, he cautions that the estimate of its length is uncertain because giant penguins had skeletons “very differently proportioned than living penguins”.

Larger penguins can dive deeper and stay underwater longer than smaller ones. A giant like P. klekowski could have stayed down for 40 minutes, giving it more time to hunt fish, says Acosta Hospitaleche.

Journal reference: Comptes Rendus Palevol, DOI: 10.1016/j.crpv.2014.03.008

New biosphere reserve in Argentina


This video is called Península Valdés, Argentina.

From Wildlife Extra:

A vast coastal wildlife haven in Argentina declared a Biosphere Reserve

Four million acres of wildlife-rich land in southern Argentina has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Península Valdés is situated on a rugged peninsula on the Atlantic coast of Patagonia in the Chubut Province, and is teeming with wildlife.

It has the largest breeding colony of southern elephant seals in South America and supports more than 70,000 pairs of Magellanic penguins, over 10,000 South American sea lions, cormorants, gulls, terns, and nearly 4,000 southern right whales. On land the peninsula sustains over 4,000 guanacos and some of the highest densities of maras and Darwin’s rheas in Patagonia.

The new reserve includes a previously unprotected area known as Punta Ninfas, where large numbers of elephant seals, South American sea lions, imperial cormorants, terns and Magellanic penguins live.

This area is under threat from three nearby large cities and uncontrolled access by people using off-road vehicles. The new Biosphere designation draws attention to the urgent need for ensuring the protection of wildlife here.

“Península Valdés is one of the great natural wonders of Latin America with greater concentrations of wildlife than any other area on the entire coast of Patagonia,” said WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper.

“Making this incredible area region a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is the culmination of years of hard work by many great partners.”

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.

Help Scientists By Marking Penguins In Pictures: here.

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.

British Overseas Territories islands wildlife


This video says about itself:

Nightingale Island Oil Spill

24 March 2011

Nightingale Island, part of the remote Tristan da Cunha group in the South Atlantic, was hit on March 16th, 2011 by the MV Oliva, a freighter carrying soybeans from Brazil to Singapore. Over 800 tons of fuel oil was spilled onto the island’s shores, poisoning the local population of endangered northern rockhopper penguins. I arrived on the site on March 23, 2011. This is what I saw.

From BirdLife:

Pioneering wildlife audit reveals 1500 exclusively ‘British’ species overseas

By RSPB, Tue, 20/05/2014 – 10:45

One of the world’s smallest lizards, a ‘spiky’ yellow woodlouse, a blue iguana, a flightless moth, a seabird thought to be extinct for three centuries and a predatory shrimp confined to just two rockpools, are just some of the amazing 1547 species unique to the islands of the UK’s Overseas Territories, which extend from the sub-Antarctic to the tropics.

The amazing haul of native and unique species, which have been highlighted during an RSPB wildlife ‘stocktake’ of the UK Overseas Territories, show these Territories contain at least 1500 endemic species: those species found nowhere else on earth. Compared with the 90 endemic species in the UK, the report shows that the UK’s Overseas Territories hold more than 94% of known unique British species. Staggeringly, the scientists compiling the figures have calculated there could be another 2100 endemic species awaiting discovery by science, as there are still many gaps in the understanding of the wildlife of the Territories.

Some of the species and habitats present on the UK’s Overseas Territories are found nowhere else on earth. Information from the better-understood wildlife groups, such as birds, reveals the severe conservation pressures faced by the wildlife on these islands, including habitat destruction, climate change and attacks from non-native species. The purpose of the report by BirdLife’s UK Partner, which was funded by the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was to obtain a broad overview of the wildlife known to occur on each of the island Territories, including unique, native and non-native species. A further step will now be to assess the risk of extinction for these species. …

Dr Tim Stowe is the RSPB’s International Director. Commenting on the report, he said, “Our report shows that not only are the UK’s Overseas Territories wildlife jewels, but also they hold some of most globally important UK wildlife. This report reminds us that these species are solely the UK’s responsibility, and we need to ensure that the investment in conservation in the territories rises to a level that is proportionate to their world importance.”

Worryingly, only 9% of the species known to be unique to the UK Overseas Territories have ever had their conservation status assessed. The RSPB’s Jonathan Hall said, “Because there has been no assessment of the majority of these unique British species, we have no idea how they are faring: they could be thriving, or hurtling off a cliff. We simply don’t know, but we urgently need to find out.” The RSPB is reminding Defra, which has wildlife conservation responsibility for the Territories, to establish a scientific plan to assess the status of the 91% of the Territories’ unique species whose fortunes are unknown.

Rarest

Most of the rarest known British species occur in the UK Overseas Territories, including: Wilkin’s Bunting Neospiza wilkinsi, the rarest bird, with around 80 pairs, on Tristan da Cunha (S Atlantic); the Arlihau, the rarest known plant, of which only six individuals are known on Pitcairn Island (Pacific); the Ascension Island (mid Atlantic) predatory shrimp, the rarest marine invertebrate, confined to two rock pools; and the spiky yellow woodlouse, the rarest land-loving invertebrate, with only around 90 individuals on St Helena (mid Atlantic).

The report, the UK’s wildlife overseas, looked at the 11 UK territories that are oceanic islands or island groups.

See also here.

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King penguins avoiding wet feet, video


This video from the Falkland islands says about itself:

Penguin Dilemma

Cute, funny penguin couple overcome an obstacle in the rainy, windy elements. Shot near Volunteer Point in the South Atlantic Ocean by Carole Anne (babers201) and Ron. Edited by paulgrem.

Copyrighted by Carole Anne and paulgrem.

Music by Kevin MacLeod under Creative Commons by Attribution 3.0.

Songs used:

Danse of Questionable Tuning
Sneaky Snooper
Conflicted
Scheming Weasel faster

These are king penguins.

A study of how penguin populations have changed over the last 30,000 years has shown that between the last ice age and up to around 1,000 years ago penguin populations benefitted from climate warming and retreating ice. This suggests that recent declines in penguins may be because ice is now retreating too far or too fast: here.

Today’s vast amounts of melted sea ice, caused by global warming, have left icebergs free to roam for most of the year, and batter the boulders on the shallow seabed, and the sea life that thrive there: here.