Over a million Adélie penguins discovered in Antarctic

This 2 March 2018 video says about itself:

Huge penguin colony discovered on remote Antarctic islands

Danger Islands host more breeding pairs of Adélie penguins than rest of the Antarctic Peninsula region combined.

From Scientific Reports today:


Despite concerted international effort to track and interpret shifts in the abundance and distribution of Adélie penguins, large populations continue to be identified. Here we report on a major hotspot of Adélie penguin abundance identified in the Danger Islands off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (AP).

We present the first complete census of Pygoscelis spp. penguins in the Danger Islands, estimated from a multi-modal survey consisting of direct ground counts and computer-automated counts of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery.

Our survey reveals that the Danger Islands host 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins, more than the rest of AP region combined, and include the third and fourth largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world. Our results validate the use of Landsat medium-resolution satellite imagery for the detection of new or unknown penguin colonies and highlight the utility of combining satellite imagery with ground and UAV surveys.

The Danger Islands appear to have avoided recent declines documented on the Western AP and, because they are large and likely to remain an important hotspot for avian abundance under projected climate change, deserve special consideration in the negotiation and design of Marine Protected Areas in the region.

This 2016 is video is called All About the Adélie Penguin | Continent 7: Antarctica.


King penguins, male-female difference

This 2014 video says about itself:

Just above Antarctica, off the island of South Georgia, lies a breeding hot spot for elephant seals and king penguins known as Gold Harbour.

Filmmaker Richard Sidey captures incredible raw footage and the natural sound of this wild bounty for part of his series, Speechless. “[W]ith the absence of narrative, the viewer is left to create their own narrative and their own experience, without being told what to think … It gives everyone the possibility of seeing these places for what they are without the restrictions of cost and the environmental impact”, he says.

From ScienceDaily:

Distinguishing males from females among king penguins

February 22, 2018

It is difficult to distinguish males from females among King Penguins, but a new Ibis study reveals that King Penguins can be sexed with an accuracy of 100% based on the sex-specific syllable pattern of their vocalisations. Using the beak length, King Penguin individuals can be sexed with an accuracy of 79%.

The new findings may help investigators understand how King Penguins choose mates, and they offer a cost-effective, non-invasive technique for researchers to sex King Penguins in the field.

“The sex-specific syllable pattern in King Penguin calls is a very interesting finding, both from an evolutionary perspective as it is rare in non-passerine species, but also because it allows researchers with very little training to reliably identify the gender of King Penguins without handling the individuals,” said lead author Hannah Kriesell, of the Centre Scientifique de Monaco and the University of Strasbourg.

Young penguins learn to climb

This video says about itself:

Hilarious: young penguins learn to climb – Wild Patagonia – BBC Earth

17 January 2018

Rockhoppers are aptly named for their climbing abilities, but the lesser experienced must master this skill first.

Look to penguins to track Antarctic changes. Shifts in food webs and climate are written in penguin feathers and eggshells. ByCarolyn Gramling, 5:16pm, February 14, 2018.


No-fishing zones help endangered African penguins

This 2017 video from South Africa says about itself:

Boulders beach, at the southern most tip of the African continent is home to a variety of wildlife and endemic birds.

It is also home to a rare and loveable character, the African penguin.

Penguins live on a range of 24 islands from Namibia to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

The Boulders beach colony in Simonstown is the largest land-based colony and one of the only places that people can get up close to observe these adorable creatures.

From the University of Exeter in England:

No-fishing zones help endangered penguins

January 16, 2018

Small no-fishing zones around colonies of African penguins can help this struggling species, new research shows.

Working with the South African government, researchers from the universities of Exeter and Cape Town tested bans on catching “forage fish” such as sardines and anchovies — key prey for the endangered penguins — from 20km around their breeding islands.

The body condition and survival of chicks improved when the no-fishing zones were in place.

More research is needed, but the scientists say the fishing closures should continue in South Africa and should be considered elsewhere.

“The amount of forage fish caught worldwide is increasing and — although the effects are disputed — the impact on marine ecosystems could be severe”, said Dr Richard Sherley, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“Forage fish are a key link in the food chain as they eat plankton and are preyed on by numerous species including tuna, dolphins, whales and penguins.

“We need to do more to understand the circumstances in which small no-fishing zones will improve the food available to predators, but our research shows this is a promising way to help African penguins.”

The test areas were on a small scale compared to some no-fishing zones worldwide, which can cover hundreds of thousands of square kilometres.

Researchers examined colonies at Dassen Island, Robben Island, St Croix Island and Bird Island, and compared fishing bans of about three years with similar periods when fishing was allowed.

The study says evidence for overall effects was “subtle and inconsistent”, with clear benefits for penguin populations at only two of the four islands.

Dr Sherley said it was difficult to discover the full effects of the no-fishing zones because many other factors also affect the birds.

“Decades of research may be needed to be absolutely certain of the impact on the penguins’ population size,” he said.

However, the researchers used a statistical method called Bayesian inference to demonstrate beyond doubt that the zones improved the health and survival rates of penguin chicks.

“There’s never going to be a quick answer to problems in complex ecosystems”, Dr Sherley said.

“However, without conservation action, there’s a good chance African penguins will go extinct in at least some of their current colonies.

“We are calling for a precautionary and adaptive approach — no-fishing zones to protect this species, with an open mind to change as more evidence emerges.”

Dr Stephen Votier, senior author of the study, added: “This is an excellent example of how a collaboration between government, fisheries and scientists can lead to positive outcomes for conservation.

“Statistics have played an important role here — only by using the approach we adopted was it possible to understand fully that these fisheries closures do indeed work.”

The paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is entitled: “Bayesian inference reveals positive but subtle effects of experimental fishery closures on marine predator demographics.”


Happy Christmas from New Zealand penguins

Happy Christmas

These little blue penguins from New Zealand wish all readers of this blog happy holidays and a good 1918!


Human-sized fossil penguin discovery

This video from the USA says about itself:

Ancient penguin was as big as a (human) Pittsburgh Penguin

12 December 2017

NEW YORK — Fossils from New Zealand have revealed a giant penguin that was as big as a grown man, roughly the size of the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The creature was slightly shorter in length and about 20 pounds heavier than the official stats for hockey star Sidney Crosby.

It measured nearly 5 feet, 10 inches long when swimming and weighed in at 223 pounds. If the penguin and the Penguin faced off on the ice, however, things would look different. When standing, the ancient bird was maybe only 5-foot-3.

The newly found bird is about 7 inches longer than any other ancient penguin that has left a substantial portion of a skeleton, said Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany. A potentially bigger rival is known only from a fragment of leg bone, making a size estimate difficult.

The biggest penguin today, the emperor in Antarctica, stands less than 4 feet tall. Mayr and others describe the giant creature in a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature Communications.

They named it Kumimanu biceae, which refers to Maori words for a large mythological monster and a bird, and the mother of one of the study’s authors. The fossils are 56 million to 60 million years old. That’s nearly as old as the very earliest known penguin fossils, which were much smaller, said Daniel Ksepka, curator at the Bruce Museum of Greenwich, Connecticut.

He has studied New Zealand fossil penguins but didn’t participate in the new study. The new discovery shows penguins “got big very rapidly” after the mass extinction of 66 million years ago that’s best known for killing off the dinosaurs, he wrote in an email.

That event played a big role in penguin history. Beforehand, a non-flying seabird would be threatened by big marine reptile predators, which also would compete with the birds for food. But once the extinction wiped out those reptiles, the ability to fly was not so crucial, opening the door for penguins to appear.

Birds often evolve toward larger sizes after they lose the ability to fly, Mayr said. In fact, the new paper concludes that big size appeared more than once within the penguin family tree. What happened to the giants? Mayr said researchers believe they died out when large marine mammals like toothed whales and seals showed up and provided competition for safe breeding places and food. The newcomers may also have hunted the big penguins, he said.

From LiveScience:

Giant Penguin: This Ancient Bird Was As Tall As a Refrigerator

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer

December 12, 2017 03:21pm ET

The fossils of a refrigerator-size penguin were so gargantuan that the scientists who discovered them initially thought they belonged to a giant turtle. The ancient behemoth is now considered the second-largest penguin on record.

The newfound penguin species would have stood nearly 6 feet tall (1.8 meters) and weighed about 220 lbs. (100 kilograms) during its heyday tens of millions of years ago.

The bird’s gigantism indicates that “a very large size seems to have developed early on in penguin evolution, soon after these birds lost their flight capabilities,” said study co-lead researcher Gerald Mayr, a curator of ornithology at the Senckenberg Research Institute, in Germany. [In Photos: The Amazing Penguins of Antarctica]

At first, the researchers thought the penguin fossils belonged to a turtle, said study co-lead researcher Alan Tennyson, a vertebrate curator at the Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa Tongarewa), who discovered the fossil with paleontologist Paul Scofield on a beach in New Zealand’s Otago province in 2004.

But shortly after a fossil technician began preparing the specimen in 2015, he found a part of the shoulder blade, known as the coracoid, which revealed that the fossils came from a penguin, Tennyson told Live Science.

Further analysis dated the penguin to between 55 million and 59 million years ago, meaning that it lived a mere 7 million to 11 million years after an asteroid slammed into Earth and killed the nonavian dinosaurs, Mayr said.

The researchers named the late-Paleocene penguin Kumimanu biceae. Its genus name, Kumimanu, was inspired by the Maori indigenous culture of New Zealand. In the Maori culture, “kumi” is a mythological monster, and “manu” is the Maori word for “bird.” The species name, biceae, honors Tennyson’s mother, Beatrice “Bice” A. Tennyson, who encouraged him to pursue his interest in natural history.

K. biceae didn’t look much like modern penguins. Although researchers could not find its skull, they “know from similarly aged fossils that the earliest penguins had much longer beaks, which they probably used to spear fishes, than their modern relatives [do],” Mayr told Live Science. Like its modern cousins, however, K. biceae would have already developed typical penguin feathers, waddled with an upright stance and sported flipper-like wings that helped it swim, he added.

Researchers have discovered other ancient penguin fossils in New Zealand, including those of Waimanu manneringi, which lived about 61 million years ago. However, the largest penguin on record is Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, which lived about 37 million years ago in Antarctica. P. klekowskii stood about 6.5 feet (2 m) tall and weighed a whopping 250 lbs. (115 kg), according to a 2014 study in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol (Palevol Reports).

Given that the Antarctic penguin was larger than K. biceae, it’s likely that “giant size evolved more than once in penguin evolution”, Mayr said.

K. biceae is a “cool fossil,” said Daniel Ksepka, a curator at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, who was not involved in the research. “It’s very old; it’s almost as old as the oldest known penguins anywhere”, Ksepka told Live Science. “That shows that [penguins] got big really quickly. And it all seems to have happened in New Zealand.” [Photos of Flightless Birds: All 18 Penguin Species]

But why was New Zealand a penguin paradise? The archipelago was surrounded by fish for penguins to eat, and it originally had no native mammals (although today it’s home to many sheep, weasels and domestic pets), meaning that there were no predators to bother the penguins when they came ashore to molt their feathers and lay eggs, Ksepka said.

The study was published online today (Dec. 12) in the journal Nature Communications.


King penguins and elephant seals

This 29 November 2017 video from South Georgia says about itself:

360° Elephant Seals And King Penguin Chicks #OurBluePlanet – BBC Earth

It’s so cold, this Canadian zoo had to do something a little extra to protect its penguins.