Sci-tech

A Hidden Supercolony Of Adélie Penguins Discovered In Antarctica

A Hidden Supercolony Of Adélie Penguins Discovered In Antarctica

By Image ID: corp2417, NOAA Corps CollectionPhotographer: Giuseppe ZibordiCredit: Michael Van Woert, NOAA NESDIS, ORA [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsPenguins are fascinating birds, that manage to survive on the cold Antarctic continent despite all the cruel conditions that they are exposed to.

'Now that we know this tiny island group is so important, it can be considered for further protection from fishing'. Should the Adelie penguins lose their Danger Island real estate, there's not much else around for them to go to.

Up until now, the Adélie penguin population was thought to be in decline, but the location of this particular colony has enabled it to thrive in spite of climate change.

"In 2006, I had the chance to visit one of the Danger Islands and was amazed by the sheer number of Adélie penguins I saw".

"It's kind of fantastic that there's been this really large number of penguins breeding on these small islands in a remote part of Antarctica that sort of slipped under the radar for so long", co-author Michael Polito, an oceanography professor at Louisiana State University, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

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She said that among the reasons why these supercolonies have been undetected for decades are the remoteness of the islands and the treacherous waters surrounding them.

The precision that the automaton empowered was critical, says Michael Polito, coauthor from Louisiana State University and a visitor specialist at WHOI.

In the research paper, the scientists recommend that the islands be classified as a "penguin hotspot of significant conservation value", and that the area be given refuge status.

Researchers aren't certain about why this penguin super colony has remained stable and strong for so long, but they have their suspicions.

"We are still kind of amazed", Polito, fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute as well, told Newsweek.

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The duo teamed with ecologists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and other universities in the USA and United Kingdom for an expedition in 2015. They used a simple drone that Polito described as "off-the-shell" as per Newsweek.

The photos were then stitched together to give a comprehensive picture.

As a result, the researchers were able to find 751,527 mating pairs of penguins; over 1.5 million individual birds in total.

Nevertheless, other populations of Adélie penguins are suffering because the sea ice is melting due to most likely human-induced climate changes.

The Danger Islands, said the team, has felt the ravages of climate change less than western Antarctic zones, and knew very little human activity.

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The number of penguins in the Danger Islands could provide insight into the effects of changing temperature and sea ice on the region's ecology. Well, the Danger Islands are fairly remote, even by Antarctica standards.


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