Penguin super colony found thriving on Danger Islands


The penguin supercolony was discovered on the Danger Islands - a chain of rocky, remote islands in Antarctica.

The researchers went for an on-foot exploration and revealed that the Danger Islands host more than 750,000 pairs of Adelie penguins, representing the largest population in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Scientists from Oxford University were part of an global team searching for images taken by the Landsat satellites to locate possible large numbers of penguin by identifying the mess they leave behind.

Dr Tom Hart, a researcher at Oxford's Department of Zoology, explained: "This was an incredible experience, finding and counting so many penguins". This discovery means these islands include the third and fourth largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world. "Here we report on a major hotspot of Adélie penguin abundance identified in the Danger Islands off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (AP)". The team wasn't sure how many penguins were there, so they set out to count them.

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".

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"The automaton gives you a chance to fly in a lattice over the island, taking pictures once every second".

"I thought, holy cow, there are not only colonies, but huge colonies", co-author Heather Lynch, a Stony Brook ecology professor, said in a press release. 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.

"It's not clear what the driver of those declines is yet; the candidates are climate change, fishing and direct human disturbance, but it does show the size of the problem". For years, this colony of penguins remained unnoticed because it is hard to get into the rocky islands.

It is called the Danger Islands because the area is covered with ice throughout the year.

Polito said he and his graduate students are conducting similar studies of the relationship between wildlife and their surroundings, including food sources and human-caused changes in their availability, in studying species along the Louisiana Gulf Coast. It's also the middle of the breeding season for penguins, which helped in counting them.

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