Tracking Emperor Penguins Using Feces Stains
02.06.2009 - Flora & Fauna, Other, Antarctic
Using satellite imaging to detect their feces, scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have been able to locate the various emperor penguin colonies breeding around Antarctica. The survey identifies 38 colonies in total.
Satellite imaging is used to survey the sea ice around 90 % of Antarctica's coast. However, the satellite's resolution is not high enough to be able to detect the actual penguin population during the wintertime, when the colonies move to the sea ice for breeding.
The reddish brown deposits left behind by the penguins on the sea ice now offer a new possibility to track these animals on land. Amongst the 38 colonies, 10 were newly discovered. This study also revealed that six colonies had relocated since the previous census and that another six were not found.
Next step will be to count the penguins within each colony, as points out Dr. Phil Trathan, BAS Penguin ecologist. This will enable scientists to monitor future population changes and to build on a French research that was recently conducted in Antarctica and that revealed how one particular macaroni penguin colony was at significant risk due to climate change.