More emperor penguins discovered

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

From Wildlife Extra:

Satellite images reveal twice as many Emperor penguins as were known to exist

Scientists count penguins from space

April 2012. A new study using satellite mapping technology reveals there are twice as many Emperor penguins in Antarctica than was previously thought. The results provide an important benchmark for monitoring the impact of environmental change on the population of this iconic bird.

Very High Resolution imagery

Reporting this week in the journal PLoS ONE, an international team of scientists describe how they used Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite images to estimate the number of penguins at each colony around the coastline of Antarctica. Using a technique known as pan-sharpening to increase the resolution of the satellite imagery, the science teams were able to differentiate between birds, ice, shadow and penguin poo (guano). They then used ground counts and aerial photography to calibrate the analysis. These birds breed in areas that are very difficult to study because they are remote and often inaccessible with temperatures as low as – 50°C (- 58 degrees Fahrenheit).

595,000 Emperor penguins

Lead author and geographer Peter Fretwell at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) which is funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) explains, “We are delighted to be able to locate and identify such a large number of Emperor penguins. We counted 595,000 birds, which is almost double the previous estimates of 270,000 – 350,000 birds. This is the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space.”

44 colonies, including 7 new colonies

On the ice, Emperor penguins with their black and white plumage stand out against the snow and colonies are clearly visible on satellite imagery. This allowed the team to analyse 44 Emperor penguin colonies around the coast of Antarctica, with seven previously unknown.

“The methods we used are an enormous step forward in Antarctic ecology because we can conduct research safely and efficiently with little environmental impact, and determine estimates of an entire penguin population, said co-author Michelle LaRue from the University of Minnesota and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. “The implications of this study are far-reaching: we now have a cost-effective way to apply our methods to other poorly-understood species in the Antarctic, to strengthen on-going field research, and to provide accurate information for international conservation efforts.”

BAS biologist Dr Phil Trathan, and co-author, noted, “Current research suggests that Emperor penguin colonies will be seriously affected by climate change. An accurate continent-wide census that can be easily repeated on a regular basis will help us monitor more accurately the impacts of future change on this iconic species.”

Loss of sea ice

Scientists are concerned that in some regions of Antarctica, earlier spring warming is leading to loss of sea ice habitat for Emperor penguins, making their northerly colonies more vulnerable to further climate change.

Dr Trathan continued, “Whilst current research leads us to expect important declines in the number of Emperor penguins over the next century, the effects of warming around Antarctica are regional and uneven. In the future we anticipate that the more southerly colonies should remain, making these important sites for further research and protection.”

This research is a collaboration between British Antarctic Survey, University of Minnesota/National Science Foundation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Australian Antarctic Division.

See also here. And here.

April 2012. Sixteen “hidden” cameras planted by scientists have survived some of the planet’s harshest winter conditions to capture the annual activities of penguin colonies in Antarctica: here.

Antarctic ice-sheet loss driven by basal melting of ice shelves: here.

Warm Currents Threaten to Expand Antarctic Melting: here.

On a 1910–1913 Antarctic expedition, surgeon and zoologist George Levick bore witness to some surprising sexual behaviors of Adélie penguins, including coerced sex and necrophilia. In fact, the paper he wrote on the penguins’ sexual habits was considered too explicit to be published during the Edwardian era, and has only recently been rediscovered after spending almost a century hidden away in the Natural History Museum at Tring: here.

Researchers from the Natural History Museum in Madrid, who have been working in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica, have discovered that the population of chinstrap penguins there has declined by more than a third in the last 20 years: here.

8 thoughts on “More emperor penguins discovered

  1. Pingback: Bahrain dictatorship news round-up | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  3. Little penguins kileld in Australia

    May 2012. The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) is investigating the death of 27 Little Penguins and two Water Rats at the Phillip Island Nature Park. The Little Penguins were found at Cat Bay, Shelly Beach and the Penguin Parade Car Park.

    DSE Wildlife Officers are investigating the cause of death however preliminary observations of the injuries are consistent with a dog attack.

    Little Penguins and Water Rats are protected in Victoria.

    If a dog attacks wildlife on public land, the owner could face fines of up to $3000 under the Wildlife Act 1975.


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  7. Pingback: Emperor penguins and climate change | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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