A Hidden Supercolony Of Adélie Penguins Discovered In Antarctica

Posted: Mar 3 2018, 1:03pm CST | by , in Latest Science News


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A Hidden Supercolony of Adélie Penguins Discovered in Antarctica
Credit: Michael Polito, Louisiana State University

Researchers have found a previously unknown huge colony of Adélie penguin on Antarctica's remote Danger Islands

A previously unknown “supercolony” of more than 1.5 million Adélie Penguins has been discovered in remote rocky islands of Antarctica. The population was detected by satellite images of the region and researchers are totally surprised by the discovery.

The Adélie Penguins that were once widely distributed along the entire Antarctic coast had thought to be in decline for the past few decades. The latest find, however, expands the number of supposedly dwindling population of Adélie Penguins.

“It's kind of amazing that there's been this really large number of penguins breeding on these small islands in a remote part of Antarctica that sort of slipped under the radar for so long," said co-author Michael Polito, an oceanography professor at Louisiana State University. “It is exciting because it’s very significant number from a global population standpoint.”

The first evidence of the hidden penguin colony was emerged in NASA satellite imagery that showed large amount of penguin feces, also known as guano, in the Antarctic's Danger Islands. The data hinted at the presence of hundreds of thousands of penguins. To confirm it, a combined team of researchers arranged an expedition to the islands. Their goal was to count the numbers of the bird by hand.

When researchers arrived at the region in December 2015, they found hundreds of thousands of birds nesting in the rocky soil. Using Quadcopter drone-based aerial photography, researchers confirmed that the Danger Islands have 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins, which are more than the rest of the entire Antarctic Peninsula region combined.

“We were surprised to find so many penguins on these islands, especially because some of these islands were not known to have penguins.” Co-author Heather Lynch of Stony Brook University said.

Danger Islands lie at the tip of northern Antarctic Peninsula. For years, this colony of penguins remained unnoticed because it is difficult to get into the rocky islands. The discovery of the supercolony will provide new insight not just on the species of penguin but also on the effects of climate change on region's ecology.

Michael Polito says. “The results of our study indicate that not only do the Danger Islands hold the largest population of Adélie penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, they also appear to have not suffered the populations declines found along the western side of Antarctic Peninsula that are associated with recent climate change.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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