Here’s a great link to some very historic penguin photo’s as it’s the 100 anniversary of the first professional photographs of penguins. Click on this link and enjoy.
Posts Tagged ‘Antarctica’
Do penguins adhere to daylight savings time? Do penguins even care? Antarctica where two major penguins species reside (Emperor and Adlie) sits on every line of longitude, due to the South Pole being situated near the middle of the continent. Theoretically Antarctica would be located in all time zones, however areas south of the Antarctic Circle experience extreme day-night cycles near the times of the June and December solstices, making it difficult to determine which time zone would be appropriate. For practical purposes time zones are usually based on territorial claims, however many stations use the time of the country they are owned by or the time zone of their supply base (e.g. McMurdo Station and Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station use New Zealand time due to their main supply base being Christchurch, New Zealand).Many areas have no time zone since nothing is decided and there are not even any temporary settlements that have any clocks. They are simply labeled with UTC time. With almost six months of daylight and six months of darkness in most of Antarctica we must conclude that daylight savings time in the southern continent does not make any sense, so there’s no “fall back, spring ahead” in Antarctica, and since penguins can’t tell time, we must conclude the Antarctic time zone phenomenon moot. At least for penguins.
The Penguin Post has learned that a team of European penguin researchers have found some unexpected results when they turned infrared heat sensing cameras on a group of emperor penguins they were studying.The outer layer of the birds feathers, they found, was actually colder than the surrounding air. While it goes against common sense, keeping their outermost layers ice-cold may actually help penguins stay warm deeper inside — where it counts.
Researchers from the Universite de Strasbourg in France and other institutions snapped thermal pictures of hundreds of penguins who had left the protection of the giant huddles that keep them warm, presumably because they found themselves seated next to someone who wouldn’t shut up about their startup. When they abandoned the huddles, researchers were surprised to find the penguins temperature dropped to below that of the surrounding air — which, when you’re in Antarctica, is already very, very low indeed.
The outer layers of the penguins feathers generally registered four to six degrees Celsius lower than the air around them. Since their outer layer is colder than the air around them courtesy of what researchers described as “extreme radiative cooling,” the birds can actually draw a little bit of warmth from the sub-zero environment. It’s not much warmth, say researchers, and much of it is probably lost when it passes through the skin, which is not a great conductor of heat. When you’re a penguin, though, every little bit of heat counts.
The team also found that some parts of the penguin’s body did manage to remain warm. That includes their eyes, which are surrounded by specialized rings of blood vessels that keep them warm — and result in the bird’s eyes glowing bright red in infrared photos, making it look like some strange, squat, Technicolor demon.
The Penguin Post has learned that a decline in the population of emperor penguins appears likely this century as climate change reduces the extent of Antarctic sea ice, shows a recently published U.S. study. The research, led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and published this week in Global Change Biology, focuses on a much-observed colony of emperor penguins in Terre Adelie, Antarctica. Employing a set of sophisticated computer simulations of climate and a statistical model of penguin demographics, the authors conclude that the number of breeding pairs may fall by about 80 percent by 2100. Building on previous work, the team examines how the sea ice may vary at key times during the year, such as the seasons of egg laying, incubation and chick-rearing, and how the sea ice concentrations may influence the males and females. The authors stress that their projections contain large uncertainties, because of the difficulties in projecting both climate change and the response of penguins. However, almost all of their computer simulations point to a significant decline in the colony at Terre Adelie, a coastal region of Antarctica where French scientists have conducted penguin observations for more than 50 years. “Our best projections show roughly 500 to 600 breeding pairs remaining by the year 2100,” says lead author Stephanie Jenouvrier, a WHOI biologist. “Today, the population size is around 3,000 breeding pairs.” Another penguin population, the Dion Islets penguin colony close to the West Antarctic Peninsula, has disappeared, possibly because of a decline in Antarctic sea ice, according to the biologist. The nearly four foot tall emperors are the largest species of penguin. They are vulnerable to changes in sea ice, where they breed and raise their young almost exclusively.
The Penguin Post has learned that New Zealand scientists are preparing a study to solve one of nature’s great mysteries, the disappearance of a rapidly dwindling breed of penguin every winter. Scientists from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) are being funded by the U.S.-based National Geographic to discover where the missing rockhopper penguins go in winter. A team of scientists will travel to the penguins’ breeding ground in New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic Campbell Island to attach 88 miniaturized tracking tags to penguins’ legs next year. “We don’t know where the penguins go during winter,” said NIWA scientist David Thompson. “It could be a crucial stage in the breeding cycle for them. To successfully raise chicks, they need to come back to Campbell Island at the start of the breeding season in good condition,” he said. “If they have a bad winter, they will come back to Campbell Island in poor condition. This stage of the annual cycle of the birds is likely to be very significant. To know nothing about where this stage takes place is a crucial gap in our understanding of the factors affecting the penguin populations.” From 1942 to 1985, the Rockhopper penguin population at Campbell Island declined from about 800,000 breeding pairs to just 51,000 pairs, and the decline had continued since. “They are unlikely to become extinct in the near future, but this represents a massive decline,” said Thompson. The data obtained from the tags would shed light on the winter movements, distribution and habitat use of Rockhopper penguins.
“I wouldn’t think they go too far, they clearly can”t fly, however they can swim pretty fast,” said Thompson. “They leave Campbell Island in April, and don”t reappear until early October. That gives them a few months to go exploring. I suspect they don”t go too far south, nor are they likely to go too far north. They probably stay at the same latitude, but disperse away from the island, spending that time feeding and regaining condition.” Diminished food stocks probably caused the falling population, he said. “They eat little krill, crustaceans, juvenile and small fish and small squid. They have quite a broad diet. It”s thought that fluctuations in sea temperatures may have led to a reduction in the abundance or availability of their prey,” said Thompson.
Among the thousands of species on the planet, no animal has a more rigidly defined gender role of mutual co-operation than the Emperor Penguin. Long-distance relationships often leave us with nothing but longing, but as the Penguin Post has learned for the Emperor penguin, there is no choice but to endure some time apart for the good of the family. Emperor penguins win their mate by passionately serenading and bowing to each other (guys take note). After they become a couple, the female lays her egg and carefully passes it to the male, and the two stare at it for up to an hour while trembling and singing (beautiful). After this romantic interlude, the momma penguin says so long and then leaves dad and the egg for her journey across the ice and out to sea to feed for the winter, leaving dad alone with the egg for more than two months. In effect she is going food shopping and will return (if all goes right) just after the chick is born with a belly full of food. While the mother emperor is fattening herself up out at sea, dad faces treacherous blizzards, winds and extremely low (50 below zero) temperatures. Not only is he incredibly bored (even for a penguin), but he loses half his body weight during this time as well. But in two months time using their song to locate one another, mom returns with a full belly of food for the chick, and the families are reunited. The male apprehensively passes the female their new chick, and she provides its first meal. Then it’s time for dad to head out to sea for his all you can eat seafood buffet. The two parents will remain mates for life so long as they can find each other time and again. The migration of Emperor penguin mom’s ensures nourishment for the chick and the future of the penguin family, and a lesson for us all of the importance of mother’s, families and co-operation.
As crime waves go, there’s something very fishy about a series of thefts taking place at the London Aquarium. As the mating season begins, ‘criminal’ Gentoo penguins have been stealing pebbles from rival nests. This is not the Penguin Posts first encounter with penguin pebble thieves and we’re sure it won’t be the last, as with a stealthy glance over their shoulders, the fiendish birds quickly waddle to their neighbors’ unguarded nests, steal a stone and run back to their own nest. In many cases it won’t be long before the ill-gotten stones will again be stolen by another bird or even the original owner. You can blame this circular crime wave on hormones more than anything else, but it’s a crime none the less. But as the number of break-ins increase, the Gentoos have become suspicious of their fellow colony members, and no one is beyond suspicion. If they notice a rival moving in to plunder their pebbles they quickly run back to defend their nests, keeping everyone on their webbed toes. The colony of 10, which arrived at the attraction last year, are in the middle of their first mating season at the aquarium. Males declare their interest in a female by selecting and presenting a ‘love token’ in the form of a pebble to their chosen female. If it is accepted, the couple then begin collecting more pebbles to line their doughnut-shaped nest. The birds build their stone nests to elevate and protect their eggs. Smooth pebbles are ‘like gold dust’ because they are easy to pick up and comfortable to lie on, according to those who tend to the birds. Hayley Clark, aquarist at the Sea Life London Aquarium, said extra pebbles had to be put into the enclosure after burglar Vladimir has conducted daily robberies on surrounding nests. She said: ‘Some of them are a little bit more tricky than the others, they keep an eye out for the owner of the nest before stealing. A couple of them will just run straight to a nest and will be chased off straight away. ‘They just prefer a certain type of pebble. Pebbles are like gold dust to these guys. ‘The male works out where he wants his nest and that is when he starts collecting pebbles. The female will join in as well after he has given her a few pebbles to place in the nest how she wants it. ‘It is like giving your girlfriend chocolate.’ Ms Clark added that there has been ‘a few tiffs’ over pebble thefts. ‘They will run over pretty sharpish and tell them where to go,’ she said. ‘It can get a little bit aggressive but they generally back away very quickly.’ No eggs have been seen yet but breeders are hoping that a few will turn up in the next few weeks. The pilfering activities of pesky penguins were also featured in the BBC’s Frozen Planet when crews captured Adelie penguins performing a similar thefts while filming in Antarctica.
Counting emperor penguins in their icy Antarctic habitat was not easy until researchers used new technology to map the birds from space, and they received a pleasant penguin surprise for their efforts. The Penguin Post has learned that by using satellite mapping with resolution high enough to distinguish ice shadows from penguin poo, an international team has carried out what they say is an unprecedented penguin census from the heavens over the past three years. The good news was that the team found the Antarctic emperor penguin population numbered about 595,000, nearly double previous estimates. But the bad news was that some colonies have disappeared altogether due to changing weather patterns and the long-term future of the birds is far from assured. “Yes, this is the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space, absolutely,” said Barbara Wienecke, a sea bird ecologist with the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) who spoke with Reuters by phone from the Aurora Australis research vessel. Previous counts have been inaccurate due to rough terrain that made some colonies inaccessible and frigid temperatures that can plummet to – 50 degrees Celsius (- 58 Fahrenheit). This time the group, a collaboration between the AAD, the British Antarctic Survey, the University of Minnesota/National Science Foundation and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, used aerial photography to calibrate their analysis of counts taken on the ground. Emperor penguins, with their distinctive black and white plumage, stand out against the snow. That means colonies are clearly visible on satellite images, the group found. Their results are published in the journal PLoS ONE.
The technique also has the advantage of having no negative impact on the sensitive Antarctic environment or the birds. “Most of the time it is impossible to take into consideration every single colony, but now we are in a position that we can actually compare how the sea ice environment changes and hopefully continue to monitor the population – and see which ones may or may not be decreasing in size,” Wienecke said. Previous censuses using more traditional counting methods came up with estimates of 270,000 to 350,000 birds. While the greater number of penguins is encouraging, changing weather patterns mean their survival is far from assured. The larger population may also pressure the numbers of krill in the oceans, an essential food for the penguins.
Warming oceans observed by the research team can also have an impact. Of particular concern is what happens with “long fast ice” – ice that is attached to the continent and forms a continuous flat area of frozen ocean. Such ice is where most of the penguin colonies are found, its flat surface essential for the male penguins who incubate each mating pair’s single egg on their feet.
“Things change very quickly, so we can’t take comfort in having half a million birds at the moment,” Wienecke said. “If the fast ice changes, the birds can end up in a lot of strife very, very quickly.”
How will you celebrate International Penguin Day this year? We’re giving you about three weeks notice to make your plans and act (waddle) accordingly on this most sacred of penguin holidays. So what is International Penguin Day and when did it begin? About 20 years ago I read an article in the Science Times about researchers at McMurdo Station in Antarctica who noticed that every year, like clockwork, on April 25th a colony of Adelie penguins returned from months at sea to the same spot on the same day every year. These scientists and their support crew marked it on the calendar and would make a day of it, gathering near the shore to welcome the penguins who would arrive by the hundreds right on schedule every year. It became almost an official holiday at McMurdo known as to the staff as Penguin Day. So when I read the article in The Times, I became intrigued and contacted some folks I knew who had worked at McMurdo Station. They confirmed and expanded on the story and then passed I it along in an article in the print version of the Penguin Post in 1997. In the article I gave it a bit more of an important title calling it World Penguin Day since I felt Antarctica is an international place. Within a couple of years with the dawn of the internet word spread and it took on a life of its own to the point where it’s now an internationally celebrated niche holiday. So, did Penguin Place usher in International (World) Penguin Day? Not really. The very cool Adelie penguins around McMurdo Research Station did, and their legendary exact timetable of migration that delighted the staff at the base was all it needed. By the time the Penguin Post got hold of the story it was already widely known from the N.Y. Times Science Section story, but obviously a write up in the Penguin Post (read by penguin lovers around the world) certainly didn’t hurt spread the word. So, you now have three weeks to prepare yourself to have a wonderful World Penguin Day. What should you do? Have fun and try to do something penguinish, whether dressing in black and white, wearing penguin apparel and / or accessories, eating fish (healthy), waddling every now and then, watching a penguin video (be it a nature film, animated or something like Mr. Popper’s Penguins), read about penguins, visit penguins at your local zoo or aquarium, or maybe treating yourself by buying up hordes of penguin merchandise.