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

Penguin supercolony Antarctica

Penguin supercolony Antarctica

A team of worldwide scientists, including two from Louisiana State University, have discovered that 1.5 million Adelie penguins have been hidden in plain sight on the nine ice-covered and rocky outcrops that make up the Danger Islands on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. While a previous geological expedition30 noted the presence of Adélie penguins on all of the Dangers Islands (with the exception of Darwin Island, which was not visited), the presence of Adélie penguins on several of these islands went largely unrecognized until a recent Landsat satellite survey of the Antarctic identified several large penguin colonies supporting what appeared to be almost 200,000 Adélie penguin nests. 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.

"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. Heather Lynch (Heather Lynch) from stony brook University in NY.

Ice melting reduces krill, the penguins' main food, and allows for more detrimental human activity, especially fisheries.

The researchers did a preliminary head count, took drone images and collected mud cores during a 2015 expedition.

A team led by researchers from the US-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution reported their discovery in the journal Scientific Reports.

Penguin supercolony Antarctica

Ms Lynch said: "One of the ways in which this is good news is that other studies have shown this area (the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula) is likely to remain more stable under climate change than the western Antarctic Peninsula".

Scientists have reported the discovery of a supercolony of Adelie penguins in Antarctica which host more than 1.5 million birds.

Using a Quadcopter drone, the researchers flew a grid pattern across the islands, taking multiple photos of the birds and their nests. There, they found hundreds of thousands of penguins crammed in the rocky soil. It's also the middle of the breeding season for penguins, which helped in counting them. Indeed, even in the austral summer, the close-by sea is loaded with thick ocean ice, making it to a great degree hard to get to.

"If we look at the future projections of climate change and the pace of climate change, even areas like the Danger Islands have the potential to be negatively affected", he said.

The team now want to get a better understanding of exactly what's causing the difference between the two populations, as well as set up policies to keep the Danger Islands protected.

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