Published: Mon, March 05, 2018
Entertaiment | By Minnie Bishop

Scientists find a previously unknown mega-colony of penguins on Antarctic islands

Scientists find a previously unknown mega-colony of penguins on Antarctic islands

Historically, the Danger Islands weren't considered an important penguin habitat, according to Heather Lynch, associate professor of ecology & evolution at Stony Brook University, because the remote islands are surrounded by treacherous waters and are hard to access. The Danger Islands are surrounded by treacherous waters and are almost inaccessible in even the peak of summer, since the ocean nearby remains covered with thick sea ice. The population was detected by satellite images of the region and researchers are totally surprised by the discovery.

"Basically these islands were covered in penguins", Michael Polito, an assistant professor of oceanography and coastal sciences at Louisiana State University and coauthor of the paper, told BuzzFeed News.

In addition to Adelies, the team also found about 100 nests of gentoo penguins, and about 27 nests of chinstrap penguins. Well, the Danger Islands are fairly remote, even by Antarctica standards. Is it connected to the expanded ocean ice condition over yonder? They called the area "a major hotspot of Adélie penguin abundance".

"Not exclusively do the Danger Islands hold the biggest populace of Adélie penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, they likewise seem to have not endured the populace decreases found along the western side of Antarctic Peninsula that are related with late environmental change", says Polito.

Adelies are one of five penguin species that live in and around the Antarctic continent.

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"I only had a couple hours on the island, and it was late in the breeding season so there wasn't many adults on land - but there was lots and lots of poop", he said. This suggests a large number of penguins in the area, so they arranged an expedition to the island with the objective of counting the birds.

The team launched an expedition in December 2015 to the Danger Islands, which were so-called in 1842 by James Clark Ross, the explorer, for being thickly encrusted in ice.

Lynch said that the discovery of the new penguin population will have "real consequences for how we manage this region", which is being considered in the designation of future Marine Protected Areas in the region.

The researchers want the Danger Islands to receive some kind of consideration for special protection because of the large number of penguins found there. "But it also reinforces the urgency to protect Antarctic waters from the dual threats of overfishing and climate change".

Polito said he and his graduate students are conducting similar studies of the relationship between wildlife and their surroundings, including food sources and human-caused changes in their availability, in studying species along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

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