Gentoo penguins in Antarctic winter, new study


This video says about itself:

Walk with Penguins in immersive 3D experience

19 April 2017

For the first time, you can instantly transport yourself to a sub-Antarctic penguin colony and immerse in the lives of Southern Rockhopper, King, Magellanic, and Gentoo Penguins. Watch in full HD as the penguins return from challenging journeys back to their colonies of fuzzy chicks.

Beautiful. Inspiring. Under threat.

Despite being loved the world over, penguins are the world’s second most threatened group of marine birds, with 10 of the 18 species threatened with extinction due to competition with fisheries, bycatch, marine pollution, disease, habitat disturbance and climate change.

The world’s largest nature conservation partnership, BirdLife International, has worked with London-based virtual reality and post-production specialist, Visualise, to create Walk with Penguins, an engaging 3D 360 short nature film used to connect audiences with penguin protection.

Urgent action is needed to better protect penguins, please visit here to show your support.

See also here.

From the American Ornithological Society Publications Office:

Time-lapse cameras provide a unique peek at penguins’ winter behavior

April 19, 2017

Not even the most intrepid researcher wants to spend winter in Antarctica, so how can you learn what penguins are doing during those cold, dark months? Simple: Leave behind some cameras.

Not even the most intrepid researcher wants to spend winter in Antarctica, so how can you learn what penguins are doing during those cold, dark months? Simple: Leave behind some cameras. Year-round studies across the full extent of a species’ range are especially important in polar areas, where individuals within a single species may adopt a variety of different migration strategies to get by, and a new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances uses this unique approach to get new insights into Gentoo Penguin behavior.

Gentoo Penguins are of interest to scientists because they’re increasing at the southern end of their range in the Western Antarctic Peninsula, a region where other penguin species are declining. Little is known about their behavior during the nonbreeding season, so Caitlin Black and Tom Hart of the University of Oxford and Andrea Raya Rey of Argentina’s Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Técnicas used time-lapse cameras to examine patterns in Gentoo Penguins’ presence at breeding sites across their range during the off season. They found both temporal and spatial factors driving winter attendance — for example, more Gentoo Penguins were present at breeding sites when there was open water or free-floating pack ice than when the shoreline was iced in, and more Gentoo Penguins were at breeding sites earlier in nonbreeding season than later.

The researchers deployed the cameras at seven sites including Argentina, Antarctica, and several islands. Each camera took eight to fourteen photos per day, and volunteer “citizen scientists” were recruited to count the penguins in each image via a website. Overall, the seven sites fell into three distinct groups in terms of winter attendance, each with its own patterns of site occupation. These findings could have important implications for understanding how localized disturbances due to climate change and fisheries activity affect penguin populations during the nonbreeding season.

“Working with cameras allows us to understand half of this species’ life without having to spend the harsh winter in Antarctica. It has been exciting to discover more about why Gentoos are present year-round at breeding sites without having to handle a single bird,” says Black. “I believe the applications for this technology are far-reaching for colonial seabirds and mammals, and we are only just beginning to discover the uses of time-lapse cameras as deployed virtual ecologists in field studies.”

“What most seabirds do away from their nest is often anybody’s guess. For Antarctic birds, this is compounded by the long periods of darkness that penguins and others must face in the winter,” adds Mark Hauber, Editor-in-Chief of The Auk: Ornithological Advances and Professor of Animal Behavior at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “This new research in The Auk: Ornithological Advances on Gentoo Penguins colonies reveals critical year-to-year differences in where the birds are when they are not nesting: In some years, only the most temperate sites are visited, and in other years both southerly and northerly locations are busy with penguins.”

Fossils may reveal 20-million-year history of penguins in Australia. Penguin history includes the ‘giant penguin,’ arrivals via multiple dispersals, extinctions: here.

Finding elusive emperor penguins: Both surveyors and satellites needed to study remote penguin populations: here.

Whales, seals feed on Antarctic krill


This video says about itself:

10 February 2017

Fur seals and whales feast on billions of krill. A chance to see fantastic images of the most abundant whales in the Southern Oceans, Minke Whales, and the awe-inspiring Humpback Whales that also visit the freezing Southern Seas in the summer.

‘EXTREMELY HIGH LEVELS’ OF TOXIC POLLUTANTS FOUND IN DEEPEST PARTS OF WORLD’S OCEANS “The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, reportedly provides the first evidence that man-made pollutants have reached the planet’s most far-off areas, according to those behind the research.” [HuffPost]

Anti-Trump demonstration, Antarctic, 21 January


Women's March Antarctica

Tomorrow, 21 January 2017, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the USA, there will be the Women’s March on Washington against his policies.

There will be at least 616 ‘sister marches’ to that event all over the world. Like in London, England. And in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. And in The Hague, the Netherlands (march from the Malieveld to the US embassy). And in Aruba in the Caribbean.

And, like there was a demonstration in Antarctica in 2003 on the same day millions of others demonstrated all over the world against George W Bush’s plans to invade Iraq, there will be a demonstration against Donald Trump in the Antarctic tomorrow.

From the Women’s March site:

Women’s March – Antarctic Peninsula

Start: January 21, 2017•10:00 AM

Off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula• Neko Harbor, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Host Contact Info: Linda790@yahoo.com

We are an international group of eco-minded visitors on an expedition ship to Antarctica.

We will be “marching” on our ship, off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula on January 21, location still unknown. Unfortunately due to this constraint, we can’t invite the public, but welcome all ship-board guests and staff to join us.

We welcome signs and hats. Ideas:

Penguins for Peace

Cormorants for Climate

Seals for Science

Women for Earth”

Due to the environmental sensitivity of the area, we can’t leave any marks, trampled messages, etc.

More on the march in the Antarctic is here.

Sea spider anatomy, new research


This video says about itself:

6 July 2015

Quick facts about these thin-legged arthropods! The Sea Spider (Pycnogonida/Pantopoda)! Sea Spider facts!

From Science News:

It takes guts for a sea spider to pump blood

These arthropods’ unusual digestive system can act like a heart and gills

By Susan Milius

4:46pm, January 11, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — A newfound way of delivering oxygen in animal circulatory systems depends mostly on food sloshing back and forth in the guts.

This discovery came in sea spiders, or pycnogonids, which can look like legs in search of a body. Their spookily long legs hold stretches of digestive tract, which wouldn’t fit inside the creatures’ scrap of an abdomen. Waves of contraction sweeping up and down the leggy guts cause blood outside the guts to move too, evolutionary physiologist Art Woods of the University of Montana in Missoula said January 8 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. As lumpy surges of partly digested food rise and fall, blood that has picked up oxygen by diffusion whooshes to the rest of the body, Woods proposed.

“Essentially they use their legs like gills,” says Jon Harrison, an evolutionary physiologist at Arizona State University in Tempe, who was not involved in the research. “To my knowledge, no one had thought of this before — certainly no one has demonstrated this before.”

The roughly 1,300 sea spider species aren’t true spiders but a closely related lineage of arthropods. They feed via a long proboscis that doesn’t punch into food but gnaws at it bit by bit and then sucks up the smaller nuggets. Those nuggets typically come from hunting or scavenging other invertebrates. Jellyfish and hydroids are some sea spiders’ favorites with occasional other snacks such as clams or sea slugs. Various sea spider species live from the tropics to the poles, and in Antarctica, sea spiders grow to a leg span wider than a dinner plate.

Woods and colleagues were studying this polar gigantism when they began thinking through the spiders’ oxygen consumption. A sea spider’s outer covering is porous enough for oxygen to diffuse through. But the researchers calculated that mere diffusion without some kind of inner pump couldn’t meet these animals’ oxygen needs.

Most sea spider species have a heart and, like other arthropods, an open circulatory system. The heart shoots a pulse of blood out open-ended vessels where it washes over body tissues and then flows back into the heart’s uptake plumbing.

A sea spider heart might boost flow to such blood-hungry zones as the muscular proboscis, but the researchers didn’t see big, regular pulses of blood radiating outward through the body. Hearts probably aren’t the whole story for circulation, Woods concluded.

The researchers also observed that there’s more oxygen in the tips of the legs. Gut activity could then drive the newly oxygenated blood up the leg toward the rest of the body. A video showed a stretch of gut bulging wide inside the leg as a dollop of food washed through, shrinking as the wake died away and then swelling again as a food wave arrived from the opposite direction. These motions inside gut tissue let the oxygen-enriched blood circulate, Woods proposed.

To test the idea, the researchers lowered the oxygen content of water around sea spiders. The movements of the digestive tract increased, as expected if the guts had to work harder to supply oxygen. And when researchers raised the water temperature for both polar and temperate species, which revs up metabolism and increases oxygen demand, gut activity increased, too.

Woods proposes that sea spider blood circulation by gut motion might prove to be what paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould called an exaptation, a trait with one function that over the course of evolution takes on another. Woods’ guess: The digestive system formed first and later happened into circulation.

Antarctic Ross Sea bird conservation


This video says about itself:

24 September 2015

Passengers aboard one of our Ross Sea Journeys will travel along the southern parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, Peter I Island, the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas into the Ross Sea. Visiting the Ross Ice-shelf, Dry Valleys, McMurdo Station, Campbell Island and the historic huts of discovery voyagers Scott and Shackleton.

From BirdLife:

World’s largest protected marine area to shelter penguins, petrels

By Alex Dale, 28 Oct 2016

As the only continent not permanently inhabited by humans, Antarctica is home to some of the most pristine ecosystems on the planet. Attracted by its fish-rich waters, some 46 species of birds, from skuas to storm petrels, have spread their wings to this largely barren, but far from lifeless, icy continent.

But even on this most inhospitable of lands, nature is not safe from human influence. Penguins, easily the most iconic of Antarctica’s species, are also one of the most threatened, as a result of outside factors such as climate change and overfishing.

This is why BirdLife welcomes the establishment of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, which will protect some 1.5 M square kilometres (600,000 square miles) of the Southern Ocean from commercial fishing over the next 35 years.

The Ross Sea extends off Cape Adare, Victoria Land to King Edward VII Peninsula, Marie Byrd Land, an area of Antarctica located south-east of New Zealand. This is an area already well known to BirdLife; we have already identified several IBAs (Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas) in the region.

In particular, the area holds great importance to penguins; it is estimated 155,000 Emperor Penguin Aptenodytes forsteri (assessed by BirdLife for the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened) and more than 2.5 million Adelie Penguin Pygoscelis adeliae (Near Threatened) use these waters. The area is also globally important for the long distance migrant South Polar Skua Catharacta maccormicki and Southern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialoides.

Many other seabird species can be seen foraging in these waters, such as the Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus, the Light-mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata, the Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris, the Antarctic Petrel Thalassoica antarctica, the Snow Petrel Pagodroma nivea and the Wilson’s Storm Petrel Oceanites oceanicus. In addition, the waters also play host to leopard seals, killer whales, nearly a hundred of species of fish and approximately 1,000 invertebrate species.

“The establishment of the Ross Sea protected area is a massive win for Antarctic marine life, including globally important populations of some seabirds, such as the Adelie Penguin”, says Pepe Clarke, Global Head of Policy, BirdLife International. “By reducing fishing pressure in the rich marine environment of the Ross Sea, this marine protected area will provide a safe haven for penguin and petrel populations threatened by overfishing”.

Seabirds are one of the most threatened groups of birds worldwide, and a top priority for BirdLife. Among these, Penguins are particularly at risk, with more than half of the species classified as Endangered or Vulnerable. To better inform international marine conservation priorities, we have mapped more than 3,000 internationally important areas for seabirds, including more than 200 sites in Antarctica, using cutting edge seabird tracking technology.

Our hope is that the next step the international community will take in order to preserve Antarctica’s vital ecosystems will be the establishment of an integrated network of marine protected areas in Antarctic waters, with a focus on those areas most important for marine mammals, fish and seabirds. BirdLife will continue to work for the formation of Marine Protected Areas in areas of water that we have expert knowledge of, and are not under the jurisdiction of any one country. Earlier this month, BirdLife International proposed that an area of the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean identified as vital for marine biodiversity should be given protected status.

There’s something cool about Arctic bird poop. Ammonia from guano contributes to climate-cooling cloud creation. By
Thomas Sumner, 12:11pm, November 15, 2016: here.

Antarctic Ross Sea becoming world’s largest marine sanctuary


This video says about itself:

Antarctica Ross Sea

3 April 2014

Being an arm’s length from the world’s largest penguin, the famous though elusive Emperor, is a life-changing experience! And being inside Scott’s and Shackleton‘s historical huts were sacred moments.

By Andrea Vance of TV New Zealand today:

Ross Sea sanctuary agreement sets ‘historic’ precedent

Antarctic advocates are celebrating a significant victory after the Ross Sea was declared the world’s newest – and largest – marine sanctuary.

Negotiations between 24 countries and the European Union have been ongoing for years, and China was the last to come on board with the agreement, making more than 1.5 million square kilometres of ocean a protected area from December next year for 35 years.

Antarctic Oceans Alliance Director Mike Walker says it’s a historic day that children will learn about in schools in the future.

“It’s historic because what we believe is it is the start of the protection of the high seas,” Mr Walker says.

The ocean is home to dolphins, whales and penguins, as well as Antarctic toothfish – a delicacy in many countries.

Foreign Affairs minister Murray McCully says it’s a miracle that all of the countries finally came to agreement.

“It’s a massive step foward a – a huge win,” Mr McCully said.

Next year, three more Antarctic sanctuaries will also be up for negotiation.

“I think that, having set a good precedent here, we will get some agreements in place quite quickly – but we shouldn’t expect all of this to be plain sailing.”

Blue whale with calf, video


Wildlife Extra writes about this video:

Drone footage captures rare sight of endangered blue whale mother and calf

Drone footage of a blue whale mother and calf in the Antarctic Ocean has been released by Sea Shepherd, whose ship the Steve Irwin encountered the pair in late January.

“Filming this endangered blue whale and her calf with a drone was unbelievable,” drone pilot Gavin Garrison said in a statement.

“Spotting a blue whale from the deck of the Steve Irwin is a thrill, but being able to film the biggest animals on the planet from the air is truly awe-inspiring.”

Blue whales occur worldwide including Arctic and Antarctic waters, and are famously the largest animals known to ever live, with a maximum length of 32 metres and a weight of up to 181,437 kilograms.

The calves are eight metres long and weigh four tonnes at birth, and wean off their mothers after seven to eight months once reaching 15 metres in length.

Sea Shepherd did not estimate the size of the pair encountered by the Steve Irwin.

The species has been classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species since 1986.

However, the IUCN recommends listing the Antarctic subspecies separately as critically endangered due to the size of population loss over the past century.

The last population census used by the IUCN lists the Antarctic population at about 1,700 in 1996 and growing at 7.3 per cent every year.

The IWC granted protection to blue whales by 1966 before the total whaling ban in 1986, and says that despite continued whaling by Iceland, Norway, Japan and the Russian Federation, no blue whales have been recorded deliberately caught since 1978.

The World Wide Fund for Nature estimates the total global population at between 10,000 and 25,000.

The Steve Irwin is in the Southern Ocean as part of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Icefish, targeting illegal fishing of the Antarctic toothfish.