NASA satellite sees poop, reveals secret penguin supercolony

Louisiana State University Stony Brook University

Fishing boats have not endangered the penguins' access to the krill they feed on.

It is also the only island to date with a population estimate (285,000-305,000) derived from a ground survey of the island. The researchers were working based on satellite imagery captured by NASA in 2014, that itself hinting at the existence of large penguin colonies on the Antarctic Danger Islands.

"Even though the tiny island chain is only about 10 kilometers across, researchers hadn't realized the extent of the pengube.com/embed/EWtvsWSwmrs" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen /iframe in population, says study coauthor Heather Lynch, an ecologist at Stony Brook University in NY.

The team launched an expedition in December 2015 to the Danger Islands, which were so-called in 1842 by James Clark Ross, the explorer, for being thickly encrusted in ice.

What this revealed was that 751,527 pairs of Adelie penguins live on the islands. For every nesting bird, the scientists assumed there was a partner penguin out at sea.

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Researchers involved with the project said the drone technology has been key because it will provide insight on penguin dynamics and the effects of climate change.

This may have been due to their remoteness and the hard waters that surround them: even in the summer, anyone trying to reach the islands can expect to deal with thick sea ice. They reconfigured a commercial quadcopter drone to fly over the islands taking one photo per second, and those images were were analyzed by neural network software. It would be the biggest populace of Adelie penguins on the Antarctica promontory, and recommends that this species is completing a great deal superior to anything scientists expected in spite of decreases on the western side of the Antarctic landmass because of environmental change.

"This is not new to the penguins - they are quite happy living their lives out there". The team used new drone technology to get the first ever count of the population of penguins on the Danger Islands.

One of those on the expedition, Michael Polito, from Louisiana State University, said the islands "appear to have not suffered the population declines found along the western side of Antarctic Peninsula that are associated with recent climate change". It puts the East Antarctic Peninsula in stark contrast to the Adélie and chinstrap penguin declines that we are seeing on the West Antarctic Peninsula. "We want to understand why".

'We were... very lucky to have a window of time where the sea ice moved out and we could get a yacht in, ' said Lynch. "Food availability? That's something we don't know", she says. Is it connected to the expanded ocean ice condition over yonder?

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