Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Found: A Secret Penguin Supercolony in Antarctica's Danger Islands

Danger1 Found: A Secret Penguin Supercolony in Antarctica's Danger Islands
Elijah Vega | 03 March, 2018, 00:41

"And the sheer size of what we were looking at took our breath away", said Dr Heather Lynch from Stony Brook University, New York. To find out if the stains meant the existence of a large colony of penguins, they teamed with Stephanie Jenouvrier, a seabird ecologist at WHOI; Mike Polito, at Louisiana State University, and Tom Hart of Oxford University to arrange an expedition.

Even in the austral summer, the ocean surrounding the archipelago is filled with the kind of thick sea-ice that ships try to avoid.

It included the third and fourth-largest Adelie penguin colonies in the world.

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.

Quadcopter aerial imagery shows an Adelie penguin breeding colony on Heroina Island, Danger Islands, Antarctica.

However, thanks to the Landsat satellite, ran jointly by the NASA and the US Geological Survey, the researchers were able to make this discovery.

Lynch and her team "then went and looked at higher resolution commercial imagery to confirm the guano staining that our algorithms had picked up in the Landsat imagery", she said.

Danger2
The Adélie penguins from above

In a paper released on March 2nd in the journal Scientific Reports, the scientists announced the discovery of a previously unknown "supercolony" of more than 1,500,000 Adélie Penguins in the Danger Islands, a chain of remote, rocky islands off of the Antarctic Peninsula's northern tip.

"Despite our modern technologically advanced world there are still remote corners that we know very little about - usually because they are extremely hard to get to", he said. The number of penguins in the Danger Islands could provide insight not just on penguin population dynamics, but also on the effects of changing temperature and sea ice on the region's ecology.

But it may need protection from overfishing nevertheless.

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.

They are carnivores, and krill - shrimp-like creatures that are commercially fished in the area - is an Adelie staple.

The area was named the Danger Islands by a British explorer called James Clark Ross, who nearly ran into rocks nearby because they were buried under ice.

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