Sci-tech

A Hidden 1.5 Million Penguins 'Supercolony' Has Been Discovered From Space

A Hidden 1.5 Million Penguins 'Supercolony' Has Been Discovered From Space

Scientists suspect that decline has something to do with reductions in sea-ice, which is an important habitat for krill, the small crustaceans that form a key part of the penguin diet. "You would then be able to line them together into an vast arrangement that demonstrates the whole landmass in 2D and 3D", says co-PI Hanumant Singh, Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern University, who built up the automaton's imaging and route framework.

The researchers went for an on-foot exploration and revealed that the Danger Islands host more than 750,000 pairs of Adelie penguins, representing the largest population in the Antarctic Peninsula.

A very big "super-colony" of penguins has been discovered hidden on remote islands on the frozen coast of Antarctica.

What's insane is that before this, no one really thought the remote rocky chain of islands off the Antarctic Peninsula's northwestern tip was home to penguins - let alone 1.5 million of them.

So a team of researchers headed out on another expedition to the islands in 2015. It also offers a valuable benchmark for future change in the species, and it will lend valuable evidence for supporting Marine Protected Areas near the Antarctic Peninsula.

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The journal Nature reports that a "multi-modal survey" including ground counts and computer automated counts of drone imagery, showed huge populations of Adélie penguins in the Danger Islands off of the norther tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. "The water around the island boiled with penguins".

Even in the summer, the nearby ocean is filled with thick sea ice. They found penguins nesting at the landing site, and beyond that a colony of an estimated 1.5 million Adélie penguins, a "hidden metropolis", writes Science Alert.

Satellite photos taken in 2014 showed a significant amount of penguin poop on the Danger Islands, giving researchers a pretty good hint that a bunch of the adorable birds probably live there.

For years, environmentalists have been anxious about the Adélie penguin. "If what we see is true, it will be one of the largest colonies of Adelie penguins in the world and it will be worth it, so we sent an expedition there in order to correctly count". The scientists also used a drone to photograph the area, looking for penguins. "Food availability? That's something we don't know", said Stephanie Jenouvrier, a seabird ecologist at Woods Hole and a co-author of the study, in the news release. "We all knew there would be a lot penguins there, but I think none of us knew there would be this many".

And Dr Lynch added: "The other point worth making is that these islands are right in the mix for a couple of marine protected areas that are being proposed". The authors note the importance of protecting the area under projected climate change. "Sustenance accessibility? That is something we don't have the foggiest idea", she says.