Antarctic emperor penguins and global warming


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

From Wildlife Extra:

Antarctic emperor penguins may be adapting to warmer temperatures

January 2014: Antarctic emperor penguins could be capable of adapting to environmental change declares a new study. Four colonies were studied by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the Australian Antarctic Division and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego in California.

Their results suggest that unexpected breeding behaviour may be a sign that the birds are adapting to climate change. It was found that when the sea ice formed later than usual penguin colonies moved from their traditional breeding grounds to the much thicker floating ice shelves that surround the continent. This is positive news for the birds’ future.

At the moment the emperor penguins’ reliance on sea ice as a breeding platform and concern about changing patterns of sea ice have both led to the species being designated as ‘near threatened’ by the IUCN Red List.

Barbara Wienecke of the Australian Antarctic Division said, “These new findings are an important step forward in helping us understand what the future may hold for these animals, however, we cannot assume that this behaviour is widespread in other penguin populations. The ability of these four colonies to relocate to a different environment – from sea ice to ice shelf – in order to cope with local circumstances, was totally unexpected. We have yet to discover whether or not other species may also be adapting to changing environmental conditions.”

Lead author, Peter Fretwell of BAS said, “Satellite observations captured of one colony in 2008, 2009 and 2010 show that the concentration of annual sea ice was dense enough to sustain a colony. But this was not the case in 2011 and 2012 when the sea ice did not form until a month after the breeding season began. During those years the birds moved up onto the neighbouring floating ice shelf to raise their young.

“What’s particularly surprising is that climbing up the sides of a floating ice shelf – which at this site can be up to 30 metres high – is a very difficult manoeuvre for emperor penguins. Whilst they are very agile swimmers they have often been thought of as clumsy out of the water.”

See also here.

Why does the Antarctic hold such allure for those who go there? Alok Jha speaks to explorers drawn by the power of the ice, the extraordinary wildlife, the adventure and the isolation: here.

How many emperor penguins live in the Ragnhild colony in Antarctica? Here.

Like an ice age radiator, heat from volcanoes helped Antarctica’s plants and bugs survive Earth’s glacial periods, scientists think based on the result of a new study: here.

Ancient Antarctic Atmosphere Dated Via Krypton | Video here.

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Antarctic poetry


This video is called PENGUINS, the Antarctic Wildlife.

From Slate in the USA:

Antarctica’s Poet-in-Residence

What endures and what does not?

By Jynne Dilling Martin

Jan. 2 2014 1:51 PM

The National Science Foundation sent Jynne Dilling Martin to Antarctica this winter (the austral summer) as an artist-in-residence. Below are two poems she wrote from there.

“Am Going South, Amundsen”

An oil painting of a jaguar eating an emperor penguin
is the start of a daydream in the Royal Society library.

Nineteen ponies wedged in narrow wooden stalls
sail south; they will soon go blind from miles of radiant snow,

lap at volcanic ash for a last smack of salt, be shot
and fed to dogs. For now they sway this way, sway that.

The magnetic needle dips. Only afterwards we ask if it cost
too much. Will this species be here tomorrow or not?

says the scientist to her assembled team. The ponies eat oats
in silence, the instruments keep ticking, the icy water

washes on and off the deck. A bell abruptly rings a warning:
oxidative stress, methane concentrations, too much heat.

The dragonfish lays her pearlescent eggs beneath the ice
and for ten months stands guard. The sea-stars sway this way,

sway that. We all hope for the best. The adaptive might survive,
the needy will not. Then again, the adaptive likely won’t either.

Sorry we realized too late: we wipe reindeer hair from our eyes,
the glaciated passages too dazzling to quite see clearly.

Soon this ship will be crushed in a polar storm; below deck,
pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica are read aloud,

shredded and used to light pipes. A century later
the preservationist draining antique food tins

sneaks a taste of raspberry jam. That night he’ll dream
he digs out a tomb on a glacier filled with bay leaves

still fragrant and green. The emperor penguin egg
tucked warm in the explorer’s pocket is delivered intact

to the receptionist desk at the Royal Geographic Society;
the robbery victim nestles a stone between his feet

and rocks back and forth at the bottom of the world.
Enough seal blubber can keep a single lamp burning

for a thousand years; enough knowledge exists to fill
twenty thousand encyclopedia pages. Lost friends

return to us in dreams, but come morning we can’t recall
what they wanted. Snakes, Snell’s law, Snowblind

curl up into hazy tobacco smoke. The amphipods
in test tubes begin to faint from next century’s

simulated heat; falling leaves fill the air of our dreams.
The biologist drills a hole in the sea snail’s shell

and slides a miniature stethoscope inside, listens
for the heartbeat: it’s beating, still beating, still beating.

Read Jynne Dilling Martin’s dispatches from Antarctica on the gorgeous and bizarre life under the sea ice; adorable, googly-eyed penguins; and stunning and dangerous ice formations.

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African penguins and physics


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

From National Public Radio in the USA:

RoboCop? How About RoboPenguin!

by Adam Cole

January 01, 2014 3:06 AM

At the American Physical Society’s fluid dynamics conference this winter there was a healthy infusion of biology. In between talks on propellers and plane wings, there were presentations about flying snakes, fire ants, humpback whales and hummingbirds. Physicists from all over the world are turning to the natural world to help them solve engineering problems.

It’s not a new phenomenon. Otto Lilienthal, the “Father of Flight,” famously studied storks to help him develop his gliders. But it’s still a bit surprising that another scientist has turned to flightless birds for inspiration — specifically, he’s turned to African penguins.

Flavio Noca, now a professor of aerodynamics at Switzerland’s University of Applied Sciences, first encountered the power of penguins back when he was a grad student. He came across a paper that described the incredible acceleration of emperor penguins: from zero to 15 mph in just a second.

“I was just amazed by their performance,” Noca remembers. “That’s when, basically, I decided, ‘OK, I want to work on penguins.’”

It’s not just their speed that impressed him. Penguins can move side to side and make sharp turns effortlessly – things that underwater craft built by humans struggle to do. But very few people have studied penguins, so little is know about how these champion swimmers manage their underwater acrobatics

“There are just, for some reason, only two basic papers,” Noca says.

So Noca set out to learn more. He started by filming zoo penguins to track the exact movement of their wings.

“It was very hard because penguins have their own mind(s) so they’re not going to go where you want them to go,” Noca says.

But after analyzing lots of underwater videos, Noca and his students were able to describe the exact stroke of a penguin’s flipper. But they still needed a way to model that movement in the controlled lab environment.

This year, Noca’s research assistant, Bassem Sudki, developed and manufactured a completely novel joint mechanism that can mimic the stroke of a flipper. With the mechanical flipper churning in the water, Noca can better measure the flows and forces involved, and learn exactly how penguins achieve their maneuverability. He says someday this mechanism could help underwater craft dart through ocean.

The flipper mechanism was just one example of bio-inspired design on display at this year’s fluid dynamics conference. Many of the attendees believe they are on edge of a new wave of discovery. Scientists finally have the technology to not only understand mechanics in the natural world, but to actually replicate natural structures within human-made machines.

Nature, they say, can help engineers when they are stuck on a particular problem.

“Nature has been going through millions of years of engineering,” Noca explains. “And it has found one solution.”

It might not be the best solution, but it could be one that humans are able to imitate and improve upon.

Penguin evolution, new research


This video from Antarctica is called PENGUIN BLOOPERS.

From Phys.org today:

Cooler climate helped evolution of penguins

3 hours ago

Penguins waddled into the book of life around 20 million years ago and diversified thanks to global cooling which opened up Antarctica for habitation, a study said on Wednesday.

Scientists led by Sankar Subramanian of Griffith University in Australia sequenced telltale signatures of DNA from the genome of 11 penguin species that are alive today.

They compared these stretches to make a “molecular clock“—a way of calculating how species evolve on the basis of regular mutations in DNA.

By this yardstick, the forerunner of all penguins lived 20.4 million years ago, according to the paper, published in the British journal Biology Letters.

If so, penguins showed up more recently than thought. Previous estimates put their emergence at 41-51 million years ago.

Penguins then diversified around 11 to 16 million years ago to form most of the species that are around today, according to the study.

“This overlaps with the sharp decline in Antarctic temperatures that began approximately 12 million years ago, suggesting a possible relationship between climate change and penguin evolution.”

Penguin photographer in New Zealand


This video (in English, after a short introduction in German) says about itself:

Tui De Roy – A Wild Spirit

9 Dec 2012

Internationally acclaimed New Zealand wildlife photographer talks about her life.

From the Otago Daily Times in New Zealand:

A dedicated follower of penguins

By Rebecca Fox on Wed, 25 Sep 2013

Tui De Roy has travelled to the ends of the Earth in search of the perfect wildlife photograph.

Whether photographing the rarely seen northern rockhopper penguin on a South Atlantic island or the emperor penguin in the Antarctic, the remoter the better, for Ms De Roy.

During the production of her latest book, Penguins Their World, Their Ways, co-authored with Mark Jones and Julie Cornthwaite, she made an exception, visiting Otago Peninsula to photograph the yellow-eyed penguin.

Ms De Roy (59) and her co-authors were in Dunedin this week to talk to the Dunedin Photographic Society.

The book was a sister to an earlier one on albatrosses and together marked the end of a 15-year project for the trio.

It was during the work for the latest book that she fell in love – with emperor penguins.

She travelled to the Antarctic with the Australian Antarctic programme and was able to spend three days photographing the penguins.

”It’s very much the end of the earth. I was very lucky.

”The space, the immensity, the soft light and they were such stately birds. It was very other-worldly.”

Her dream was to spend one year in [the] Antarctic photographing the penguins‘ life for another book.

Such an endeavour was not that outrageous for the woman who has been photographing wildlife in remote places for many decades – including the Galapagos Islands, where she used to live – and who has produced six books in the past eight years.

Another highlight was photographing the ”outrageous” looking northern rockhopper penguins, as their remote location meant they were not often seen by people.

In contrast, she also spent four weeks camping in the Falkland Islands among four different species of penguins.

Her work required much time and the ability to be able to immerse herself in the environment, she said.

With the book out, she planned to take some time out before planning her next project.

One of the most “disastrous breeding seasons” in recent years has hit endangered yellow-eyed penguin colonies along Otago’s coast: here.

Turkish governmental media censorship


Not only in Greece, where the “center” Right government shuts down public television, is there governmental media censorship.

Also in neighbouring Turkey.

This video from Turkey says about itself:

Taksim Gezi Parkı Direnişi 2. Gün / Resistance Against Destruction of Taksim Gezi Park, Day 2.

From Hürriyet in Turkey:

TV watchdog fines live streaming of Gezi protests for ‘harming development of children, youth’

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has fined a number of channels, including Halk TV, for “harming the physical, moral and mental development of children and young people” by broadcasting coverage of the Gezi Park protests.

Ulusal TV, Cem TV and EM TV were also among the fined networks.

Halk TV, in particular, has gained unexpected popularity over its 24-hour live streaming of events around Istanbul, at a time when many mainstream media outlets gave little coverage to the ongoing protests.

The channel had been previously warned by RTÜK about a video clip the regulator deemed to be humiliating to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Major television stations such as CNN Türk and the public broadcaster TRT are reporting little or nothing [about the protests]. At the height of the protests in the [Taksim] square CNN Türk broadcasted a documentary about penguins. Therefore, the penguin became the symbol of censorship.

Beautiful penguins don’t deserve to be abused for ugly censorship.

What Turkey should tell us about tear gas: here.

Turkish riot police brutally attacked protesters to clear Taksim Square yesterday afternoon in Istanbul, arresting hundreds of protesters, while Washington signaled continuing support for the Islamist regime of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: here.

World Penguin Day today


This video says about itself:

Love the Penguins, it’s World Penguin Day! 5 minutes of penguin happiness.

From BirdLife:

Celebrate World Penguin Day -and the world penguin tracking database

Thu, Apr 25, 2013

April 25th is World Penguin Day, possibly because this marks the start of the return of Adelie Penguins to their breeding grounds, possibly because it provides an excuse to dress up in tuxedos and celebrate these popular and endearing birds.

Whatever the reason, penguins need all the public support they can get. Of the 18 species, 15 are considered globally threatened or Near Threatened. Work to conserve them is hampered by the patchy nature of the data on where penguins go when away from their breeding grounds. To fill in these important gaps, BirdLife International and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research have joined the British Antarctic Survey to compile a “tracking database” on six penguin species. The project is funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative.

There have been numerous penguin tracking studies, but the results have never been brought together in one place. The database will collate existing data on Chinstrap Pygoscelis antarcticus and King Aptenodytes patagonicus, Adélie Pygoscelis adeliae and Gentoo Pygoscelis papua (both Near Threatened), Macaroni Eudyptes chrysolophus and Southern Rockhopper Eudyptes chrysocome (both globally Vulnerable) penguins in the Weddell and Scotia Seas of Antarctica, as well as the waters around South Georgia.

BirdLife already manages the world’s largest seabird tracking database. The Global Procellariiform Tracking Database, which brought together the work of all the world’s experts on albatrosses and petrels, has been crucial in informing marine management decisions, particularly in relation to longline fisheries.

Penguins are excellent indicators of key marine habitats. The places where they forage are, generally speaking, also important for other marine predators like seals and whales. Once identified, areas on the high seas that prove to be important for penguins can be added to BirdLife’s directory of marine Important Bird Areas (IBAs). In turn, they may be added to the list of ecologically or biologically significant areas for conservation (EBSAs), as candidates for marine Protected Areas.

“Some penguin species have undergone declines of up to 80% in recent years”, said Ben Lascelles, BirdLife’s Global Marine IBA Officer. “Better protection of their marine habitats is vital to build resilience into hard-hit populations. By bringing the existing penguin tracking data together and identifying candidate areas for protection, this project should be able to deliver major bangs-for-the-buck in marine conservation terms”.

Good South African sea bird news


This video is about Marion island, one of South Africa’s Prince Edward Islands.

This video says about itself:

King Penguins and Fur Seals – BBC Planet Earth

Between South Africa and the South Pole on Marion Island, returning king penguins bring food for their young. However, in order to reach them, they must brave repeated attacks from angry fur seals. In an ongoing battle of face-offs both the seals and the penguins know the dangers of the fight.

From BirdLife:

Massive Marine Protected Area announced in the Southern Indian Ocean

Thu, Apr 18, 2013

Using Marine Protected Areas (MPA) is a core strategy that national governments can employ for protecting the oceans and ensuring sustainable use within territorial waters. BirdLife South Africa applauds the Department of Environmental Affairs for their announcement that South Africa’s sub-Antarctic territory, the Prince Edward Islands, has had an enormous MPA declared. BirdLife congratulates both departmental officials, independent scientists and others who were involved in the work to define and declare this MPA. At around 18 million ha, it’s a gigantic protected area and one of the largest MPAs in the world.

“Many of the world’s most important areas for seabirds remain unprotected, so the news of the Prince Edward Islands MPA is very welcome as it will safeguard one of the “crown jewels” for seabirds in the southern oceans. The MPA includes many of the critical feeding areas for the vast seabird colonies the island supports”, said Ben Lascelles, BirdLife’s Marine IBA Programme Officer.

The site had been identified as a priority for seabird conservation in BirdLife’s new marine e-atlas. The e-Atlas has been designed to give governments the data they need to make these momentous decisions. Protection of the sites within the e-atlas will help them to achieve the target of protecting 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020 that was agreed to through the Convention on Biological Diversity”.

The islands are internationally renowned for their important seabird colonies, including holding nearly half of the global population of Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans, 13% of the world’s King Penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus, and one of the highest numbers of breeding seabird species (26) of any island in the world. BirdLife International lists the islands as an Important Bird Area in recognition of its irreplaceable biodiversity value. BirdLife is also working at identifying marine Important Bird Areas across the world’s oceans, and the new MPA overlaps with several proposed marine IBAs. The establishment of the multi-zoned MPA will afford protection for many of the breeding seabirds (and other marine life).

For example, the establishment of a 12 nautical mile no-take zone around both islands will help to ensure that seabird species such as Gentoo Penguins Pygoscelis papua and the Crozet Island subspecies of Imperial Shag Phalacrocorax (atriceps) purpurascens, which feed exclusively within this area and which have suffered large decreases in recent times, will not face additional pressures from new activities in their feeding ranges.

Dr Ross Wanless, Seabird Division Manager at BirdLife South Africa, commented “This declaration represents the culmination of a lot of work by many dedicated scientists and conservationists over many years. Marine Protected Areas have great potential to protect seabirds and other marine biodiversity, and the scale and nature of the Prince Edward Islands MPA is impressive.”

See also here.

Baby African penguin name contest


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

From the California Academy of Sciences in the USA:

Our New Penguin Chick Needs a Name!

Today, biologists introduced a male penguin chick to our African penguin exhibit. Hatched on January 28, 2013, the chick is just over two months old and, until today, has been living with his parents in a private nest off of public view to give the family a chance to bond. Visit our newest animal resident!

We need your help naming our new penguin: submit your best penguin name ideas to our Name the Penguin Chick Contest by April 30, 2013 for a chance to win a fantastic Penguin Prize Pack, including an exclusive behind-the-scenes experience and Penguins+Pajamas sleepover tickets.

Academy staff will select three finalist names for public voting based on originality and connection to the Academy’s mission: to explore, explain, and sustain life. As part of our mission, the Academy co-sponsors the African Penguin Species Survival Plan, aimed at conserving this species in the wild.

The Penguin Prize Pack includes:

  • An exclusive opportunity for the winner plus one guest to go behind the scenes in the aquarium
  • Participation in the Academy’s Penguin Naming Ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2013 to announce the winning name
  • 4 tickets to a Penguins+Pajamas sleepover in 2013
  • A penguin plush toy

We look forward to your input! Submit your name ideas here.

South Africa: Cape Penguin Claims Southern Ocean As Its Hunting Ground: here.

On June 23, 2000 the damaged bulk ore carrier MV Treasure sank off the coast of South Africa between Dassen and Robben islands, which support the largest and third largest colonies of African Penguins (Spheniscus demersus), worldwide. The worldwide population of African penguins is numbered at less than 180,000 and dwindling. The ship spilled over 1,300 tons of bunker oil, which immediately oiled thousands of penguins on and around the islands: here.