Antarctic Adélie penguins, new count


This video says about itself:

14 March 2017

Scientists have their best estimate yet of how many Adélie penguins live in East Antarctica, numbering almost six million, 3.6 million more than previously estimated.

Read more about this here.

Saving penguins in Argentina


This video from Argentina says about itself:

The comeback of the Magellanic penguins

24 May 2016

During these months this Peninsula is home to birds that have adapted to green life better than anyone: the penguins.

From BirdLife:

Protecting the penguins of Patagonia

By Esteban Frere, 12 Dec 2016

“It is with some consternation that seabird biologists return to colonies they haven’t visited for many years. The hand of man has seen many colonies around the world dwindle or even vanish.” Fortunately, for some species a little conservation goes a long way.

Esteban Frere, South America Coordinator for BirdLife’s Marine Programme, started his career as a biologist by studying the Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus. He recently returned to Patagonia to help survey some of the colonies there.

Magellanic penguins are probably not the penguins most people think of when they hear the word ‘penguin’. They may have the classic monochromatic colouration, but they have a splash of pink around the face.

Unlike the stereotypical picture, most nesting colonies are not surrounded by snow and ice – many are found in warmer climes, where the birds dig burrows for nests to protect themselves and their chicks from the direct sun. Like all penguins though, they have definite charm, and are masters of the ocean (if not the land).

Large-scale surveys of Patagonia’s penguins have not been conducted since the 1990s, when Fundación Patagonia Natural and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) carried out comprehensive surveys of the seabirds and marine mammals of the Patagonian coast.

Over the last two years, a group of Argentinean researchers from the Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia Austral (supported by BirdLife International, WCS and Fundación Temaiken), have been surveying and assessing the population size of Magellanic penguin colonies along the southern coast of Argentine Patagonia in Santa Cruz province.

Most of these colonies have not been surveyed for almost 25 years, when some of the same researchers (once enthusiastic young seabird biologists….now enthusiastic, slightly older seabird biologists) participated in those early studies. …

It is with some consternation that seabird biologists return to colonies they haven’t visited for many years. The hand of man has seen many colonies around the world dwindle or even vanish – and this has happened within human lifetimes.

Indeed, in recent decades, many of the threats to penguins along the Patagonian coast have grown in importance – including fishery interactions (bycatch), climate change, habitat destruction – though others, like oil pollution, have declined. These changes are one of the reasons that it is so important to return to Patagonia and understand the trend of the penguin population.

Fortunately, my return to survey these colonies was a positive experience. Not only was great to spend time away from an office and among a bustling colony, but our preliminary results indicate that the Magellanic Penguin population in the extreme south of the Argentine Patagonia has remained stable, with numbers of breeding pairs very similar to those reported in the 90s.

This is a consequence of both luck and conservation action adopted by the government. Luck, because many penguin colonies are far from the big cities and access to them is difficult – so some of the issues of habitat destruction and disturbance facing colonies closer to human habitation are not so relevant here.

But at the same time, the national and provincial governments have created marine parks along the Argentinean coast and the community has lobbied for measures to reduce oil pollution at sea and human disturbance in the colonies. These conservation measures have surely helped to protect the Magellanic penguin colonies in the south of the country.

More work and effort is needed to minimize threats on the high seas, but the current situation looks like a good start. I hope my next trip to these colonies isn’t another 25 years in the waiting – and that the penguins there continue to benefit from conservation efforts.

Crested penguin eggs, new research


This video says about itself:

20 April 2011

These are Erect-Crested Penguins on Antipodes Island, New Zealand. This video was taken by David Salomon from an inflatable Zodiac boat.

From Science News:

Why crested penguins lay mismatched eggs

Extreme penguin egg favoritism could be quirk of migration

By Susan Milius

11:00am, December 8, 2016

In crested penguin families, moms heavily favor offspring No. 2 from the start, and a new analysis proposes why. The six or seven species of crested (Eudyptes) penguins practice the most extreme egg favoritism known among birds, says Glenn Crossin of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

Females that lay two eggs produce a runty first egg weighing 18 to 57 percent less than the second, with some of the greatest mismatches among erect-crested and macaroni penguins. Some Eudyptes species don’t even incubate the first egg; royal penguins occasionally push it out of the nest entirely.

Biologists have proposed benefits for the unusual behavior: A sacrificial first egg might mark a claim to a nesting spot or improve chances of one chick surviving predators. But those ideas haven’t held up, Crossin says. He and Tony Williams of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, propose in the Oct. 12 Proceedings of the Royal Society B that egg favoritism is just a downside of an open-water, migratory lifestyle.

Among the 16 penguin species that lay two eggs, only the Eudyptes species evolved what’s called a pelagic life, spending their nonbreeding season mostly at sea and migrating, in some cases considerable distances, to breeding sites.

Female crested penguins tend to lay their first eggs soon after arriving at a breeding site, meaning that the egg must have started its roughly 16-day development while mom was migrating. The biology of long swims, now encoded genetically, interferes with producing a full-sized egg. A puny first egg might just be a sign that mom is trying to do two things at once, Crossin says.

Flying penguin on 17th-century painting


Flying penguin, by Dirk de Quade van Ravesteijn (1565–1620)

Apparently, penguins could not only fly on this video, but also on this 1610 painting.

Leiden University weekly Mare in the Netherlands writes about it (translated):

The flying penguin

[Dutch painter] Dirk de Quade van Ravesteijn (1565-1620) painted at the [Prague] court of [Habsburg emperor] Rudolf II, and made two animal albums there: one about four-legged animals, and one about birds.

He had a great interest in animals that were interesting from a natural history perspective. [Art historian] Rikken: “He chose animals with abnormalities, such as a chicken with three legs, or species that had just been discovered.” The Magellanic penguin was then a fresh discovery. Biologist Carolus Clusius – in Leiden known as the first boss of the Hortus Botanicus – described the species in 1605.

But what did Quade know about that? And how is it that the drawing of the coat is so accurate, while Clusius’ publication was in black and white? Again, Walker suspects that the artist has seen a stuffed specimen. “How the animal moved, about that he had of course no idea. You do see more artists struggling with penguins; they are so different from other birds!”

And a 3D-printed boot enabled this penguin to walk again.

African penguins’ nest, video


This video says about itself:

Will Extreme Heat Force [African] Penguin To Abandon Its Egg? – Africa – BBC

1 April 2016

These penguins must protect their eggs from the African sun but will they all survive to see their chicks hatch?

Save Humboldt penguins in Chile


This 8 November 2015 video, in Spanish with English subtitles, is about conservation of Humboldt penguins in Chile.

From Indiegogo.com:

Let’s Save The Humboldt Penguin

Algarrobo, Chile

Take care with the future of Humboldt Penguin#PenguinProject

The reason why we are conducting this campaign is to take actions now in favor of the conservation of the Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti),, which is a currently protected species, yet still in a vulnerable condition, and the rest of the seabirds that live around.

The increase in property market of the Central coast of Chile has led several changes jeopardizing the biodiversity of the area, which is now also affecting the Humboldt Penguin, species that used to nest in a protected islet called “Islote Pájaro Niño” where the population of this seabird has decreased a 70% in the last 15 years.

The artificial breakwater built by the private Chilean nautical association, “Cofradía Naútica del Pacífico Sur”, has produced many negative effects on the ecosystem including the invasion of exotic species such as rodents that cross to the island through this bridge eating the eggs of the birds that make their nest there. Beside this, it has been reported seabirds slaughter and nest destruction caused by people who feel bothered by seabirds.

The goal of this campaign is to create a seasonal record of the species in order to measure their evolution, work with and train the local people in the identification and explanation of the seabirds and their conservation, and the importance for the local and global ecosystem, information that will be transmitted next to the large number of tourists that Algarrobo city receives every season.

We believe that the conservation of the species and their habitat is a shared responsibility, it is our mission to give the correct tools to make aware and educate about the importance of keeping alive our biodiversity. We want to invite you all to become part of this challenge; your cooperation will help us assure to reach our goals.

WHAT WE NEED WHAT YOU GET!

We need your support and activism to accomplish this project; we need you to spread the news and to share with your friend, relatives, co-workers and co-mates.
To accomplish our mission, we need to collect $15,000 dollars in order to implement and organize the current work for the Humboldt Penguins conservation.
If you cannot grant money, you can grant us time supporting us spreading the campaign.

SUPPORTING US WE CAN GET:

1. – Film a documentary to show the complete process of the Project that can help as educational material to free Access to the community.

2. – Conduct a seasonal survey during the year to measure the Humboldt Penguin evolution (Spheniscus humboldti) and also to identify seabirds’ species.

3. – Make training activities for local people having as purpose learn about the identification of species and the importance of the local and global ecosystem.

4. – Train environmental rangers to talk about environmental care particularly about the Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) to the large number of tourists in Algarrobo beaches.

5. – Create a plan to expand the current IBA site to the Peña Blanca Islet, place where important species make their nests and a large number of individuals can be found.

Take part of our Project and you can get interesting rewards and protect the Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) life expectancy.

There are 18 penguin species in the world, but despite wide ranges, these birds can be difficult to see. On the positive side for building a life list, there are several locations where multiple penguin species can be found in relatively small areas. Knowing where those areas are can help you plan a trip to put penguins on your life list: here.

Penguins and taste, new research


Thuis video is called Funny and cute penguin videos compilation.

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

Poor taste penguins lack umami gene

Rachel Sullivan

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Penguins can’t appreciate the delicate flavours of the seafood they catch thanks to a lack of taste.

New research published today in Current Biology reveals that penguins don’t have the genes that encode three of the five basic tastes – sweet, bitter, and umami (a savoury flavour), although they are genetically capable of detecting salty and sour tastes.

The study, led by Dr Huabin Zhao from Wuhan University, looked at the recently sequenced genomes of Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) and emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) and 14 other bird species.

They found that while many other birds, such as chickens, finches and Amazon parrots have also lost the ability to taste sweet flavours, unlike penguins they are still able to detect bitter and umami tastes.

“Our results strongly suggest that the umami and bitter tastes were lost in the common ancestor of all penguins, whereas the sweet taste was lost earlier,” explains study co-author Dr Jianzhi Zhang from the University of Michigan.

He says it’s a puzzling finding.

“Penguins eat fish, so you would guess that they need the umami receptor genes, but for some reason they don’t have them.”

Adding to the puzzle is that taste is a powerful indicator of whether a potential food item is good enough to eat.

“In general, a sour taste helps detect spoiled food and bitter taste helps detect toxic food,” Zhang says. “Presumably, penguins cannot use taste to detect toxins … but we don’t know if penguins have other means of detecting toxins.”

Temperature sensitivity

Zhang says that while the research team doesn’t yet have a definitive answer to why penguins are so lacking in taste, they do have some ideas.

Penguins evolved in the chilly Antarctic, and the taste receptors for sweet, umami and bitter tastes (but not salty or sour tastes) are inactive at lower temperatures. It is likely that since they wouldn’t have worked anyway their loss along the evolutionary pathway would have had minimal impact.

Many species of penguins have since spread out into warmer climates. However, Zhang says “if ancestral penguins had lost the receptor genes for the three tastes while in the Antarctic, the genes and tastes cannot be regained even when some migrated away.”

In addition, anatomical studies have shown that penguin tongues seem to lack taste receptors – even for salty and sour flavours. Instead they are covered in stiff, horny bristles designed to help catch and hold their slippery prey, which they then swallow whole, so they may not have much interest in how their food tastes anyway.

But Zhang says he is not sure that penguins completely lack taste buds pointing to the possibility that they yet might be found in the tissues of the pharanx or elsewhere in the palate.

Sweet exception

Interestingly, in nectar-loving hummingbirds that have also lost the genes encoding sweet receptors, the umami receptor has been repurposed to detect the sweet tastes of the food source they depend on.

Zhang says that a similar repurposing hasn’t happened in penguins.

“The sweet and umami receptors have a common ancestry and are similar in structure so it is possible for the hummingbird umami receptor to be repurposed to detect sweet,” he says.

“However, the sour and salty receptors are structurally completely different from sweet and umami receptors: There is no way that they can be repurposed to sense sweet or umami.”

Where to see penguins: around the world in 17 species. Mike Unwin reveals where to see penguins, from Australia to South Africa and Patagonia: here.

SCIENTISTS FIND SIXTH ‘TASTE’ Fat now joins the ranks of sour, sweet, salty, umami and bitter. [WaPo]