Million Penguins 'Supercolony' Earlier Detected From Space, Discovered on Antarctica's Danger Islands

Posted March 04, 2018

Scientists didn't know about the birds in large part because of how remote the Danger Islands are, making it hard to try to count whatever birds might be there.

It was calculated that the entire Adélie penguin population in Antarctica now has more than 4.5 million breeding pairs.

Professors from Stony Brook University in NY say they discovered the enormous colony of Adélie Penguins, which live on the Antarctic continent, when they noticed the penguins' feces, or guano, in NASA satellite imagery of the islands. "In the Antarctic, distances are so vast, something major could be just around the corner and you wouldn't know".

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The team conducted the first ever comprehensive census of the flightless birds using aerial drones, satellite photos, ship-borne photo surveillance and on-the-ground nest counting during a survey trip aboard the M/V Hans Hansson from December 9-18, 2015. Scientifically, while this is a huge number of "new" penguins, they are only new to science. That's more than the rest of the Antarctic Peninsula combined.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says the supercolony discovery supports the need to protect the area around the Antarctic Peninsula. Scientists counted penguins and manually analyze the images the drone. Is it linked to the extended sea ice condition over there? "We present the first complete census of Pygoscelis spp. penguins in the Danger Islands, estimated from a multi-modal survey consisting of direct ground counts and computer-automated counts of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery". 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. Finally getting into the Danger Islands and counting the penguins shows how robust populations are where the ice is intact'. He then realized that he had discovered a hidden penguin colony.

The 1.5 million penguins are in fact members of the Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) species, which is the very same species facing its decline on the other side of the Antarctic Peninsula, where the ice is melting and the human activity was often present in the past decades.

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Study co-author Heather Lynch said it had "real consequences for how we manage this region" and that "the Danger Islands weren't known to be an important penguin habitat". "To a risky island hard to reach, so people actually tried to do it", - said in an interview with the BBC News team member Dr. Tom HART (Tom Hart) from the University of Oxford, UK.

"We want to understand why".

"And the sheer scale of what we saw, gasped, said Dr".

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