Sun Feb 10, 2013, 09:15 AM
n2doc (33,779 posts)
Satellite Images of Penguin Guano From Space Lead to Discovery of 9,000 Penguins in Antarctica
Emperor penguin colonies are not easy to find: Their breeding grounds are remote, icy expanses, that are unobservable at distances greater than just a few kilometers due to the curvature of the Earth.
So scientists who want to monitor how these birds are faring in an unstable environment have had to come up with inventive ways of spotting them. One effective option: Penguin guano stains, as viewed from space.
In 2009, researchers published a paper identifying 10 new penguin colony locations based on satellite images of "faecal staining." "We can't see actual penguins on the satellite maps because the resolution isn't good enough. But during the breeding season the birds stay at a colony for eight months. The ice gets pretty dirty and it's the guano stains that we can see," Peter T. Fretwell, one of the paper's authors, told the Guardian at the time. In addition to the 10 new colonies, they were also able to confirm or revise the locations of 26 previously known colonies as well.
Now one of those 10 colonies has received its first human visitors: In December, a team of Belgian and Swiss explorers traveled by snowmobile and foot 30 miles from their base on the Derwael Ice Rise, where they are studying ice loss. They arrived at the colony around midnight (still light out in Antarctica at that time of year) and were stunned to find thousands upon thousands of penguins, some 9,000 or 10,000 all told, depending on who's counting.
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Satellite Images of Penguin Guano From Space Lead to Discovery of 9,000 Penguins in Antarctica (Original post)
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|Peace Patriot||Feb 2013||#13|
Response to n2doc (Original post)
Tue Feb 12, 2013, 06:59 PM
Peace Patriot (22,011 posts)
13. Some great penguin photos at that site...
Thanks for posting this!
Antarctic penguins do some amazing things--for instance, they stand in a close group of thousands of penguins, skin to skin, backs to the cold, faces turned to each other, throughout the savagely cold winter blizzards, and periodically, the outer penguins in the group are permitted into the warmer interior of the group, and those on the warmer inside go to the outer positions. Thus, everyone makes the sacrifice of bracing against the bitter cold for a period of time and then gets to share the warmth for a while. If only humans had that ethic! We're all in this together!
They also hold their eggs on the tops of their feet, throughout the frigid periods, so the eggs won't freeze and do seemingly impossible transfers of the eggs from one parent to another. The egg would freeze in an instant (and the chick inside would die) if they make a mistake in the transfer--it's that cold. What an extraordinary adaptation! No hands; no use of wings/flippers. And their feet are not all that useful--basically just a platform for the body and waddle-walking--but they transfer the eggs nevertheless, with just their feet.
Learned all this from David Attenborough. The photos at the link show penguin affection--it's very endearing. You gotta wonder about these creatures. They stand for months in these close, massive huddles against the killing cold, sharing the warmth as described, and seeming to be in a state of hibernation--but are they? Do they communicate somehow during their long winter huddles? Communicate maybe telepathically? Tell stories of worst winters, great dives for fish, ancestors eaten by leopard seals, or tell futuristic novels about the coming of the tall aliens with their weird metallic children that make whirring noises but don't seem to have mouths to eat with?
There is something about them--I don't know what exactly. Something that sends my imagination soaring.
Thanks again for the post. The article doesn't say anything about how the penguins are faring on our corporate-damaged planet, just that they are being studied for that purpose, and that this guano project is finding new groups. I hope they don't go the way of the polar bear and other species that are succumbing to the industrial age-gone-bonkers.
Here is a wonderful scientific discussion of the penguins' huddling. I forgot that it's ONLY THE MALE penguins who do this, and each one of them is holding an egg on his feet. He is incubating the egg, in the dead of winter, with temperatures of minus 45 degrees centigrade--which of course he can only do in this closely packed huddle--and these male penguins are all furthermore FASTING--getting no food--for 110 to 120 days! (As I recall, the female penguins have trekked off to a feeding ground and eventually return with food for the newly hatched chicks, and for their starving mates.)
And here's a wonderful short vid of the penguin huddle, from Attenborough...