Scientists Spot Hidden Penguin Super-Colony

Scientists Spot Hidden Penguin Super-Colony

Scientists Spot Hidden Penguin Super-Colony

Heather Lynch, Associate Professor of Ecology & Evolution Stony Brook University and colleague Mathew Schwaller had been examining satellite imagery of the Danger Islands, a chain of remote, rocky islands off of the Antarctic Peninsula's northern tip and saw what was clearly guano stains.

"Until recently, the Danger Islands weren't known to be an important penguin habitat", Lynch said in a statement. It should stay that way. However, the discovery is providing new insights into the penguin species.

"Over a million people worldwide are now backing the call for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary".

The islands are incredibly remote and surrounded by thick sea ice, which means they've been remained hidden from the world and somewhat protected from the effects of climate change and human activity.

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The proposal for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary has been submitted by the European Union and will be considered when the Antarctic Ocean Commission next convenes, in October 2018. "You can then stitch them together into a huge collage that shows the entire landmass in 2D and 3D", said the research's co-author Hanumant Singh, Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern University.

The researchers counted more than 1.5 million of these birds was first noticed, when in pictures taken from space, there were large spots of their waste. The scientists also used a drone to photograph the area, looking for penguins. He also designed algorithms to scan the collected images and identify the location of penguin nesting sites.

Working off evidence from satellite imagery captured by NASA in 2014, scientists from various institutions mounted an expedition to the area to conduct a population survey - which included the use of drones to help count the number of penguins. Even more interesting, scientists think the penguins have flourished on the Danger Islands for decades, while other colonies of the birds have declined on other parts of the continent, especially on its western half.

Scientists are eager to study the birds, to figure out how they've managed to survive in such large numbers all of these years, while their numbers plummeted on other parts of Antarctica. The existence of the supercolony could bolster support for Marine Protected Areas around Antarctica. "But with only two hours on land it was impossible to estimate the size of the population before sea ice conditions forced us to leave". Polito said the publication of their study comes at just the right time to assist in that effort, as an global body that oversees Antarctica's wildlife resources is expected to review new refuge proposals in October.

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