Posts Tagged ‘Penguins’
The Penguin Post has learned that the Nagasaki Aquarium in Japan held its inaugural penguin parade launching ceremony on this past Thursday, to the delight of school children and penguin lovers alike. Adorable kindergarteners in school uniforms marched with the penguins, and the penguins dressed for the occasion as well by wearing red bow ties, no less.
The event was so popular (and we can see why) the penguin parade will be a regular event that will be held on weekends for the next several months.
The Penguin Post has learned that the two penguins that sat on the gate posts of Barbara Cole’s house in Victoria Road in the Isle of Man in the U.K. that have achieved landmark status in the 12 years since they were put there have been stolen from their perches.
Mrs. Cole said she awoke on Tuesday morning to discover one of them had been broken off the stand and stolen. She said: ‘They have been vandalised good and proper. I haven’t a clue where the remains are. It’s irreplaceable as it was shipped over from America some years ago and they are no longer made.’
Barbara said the penguins have a strong emotional resonance for her because they are a link to her former husband Tom Glassey, a local character, writer and poet, who died in 2009. ‘Tom asked me to find some nautical birds and I found them on the internet. It appealed to both our sense of humour and have almost become a landmark in Castletown.’ She added: ‘You see big six foot men walk by and give their belly a stroke.’
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Yes, we aim to inspire a whole new generation of field biologists! With just 24 hours to go on our Kickstarter campaign, please join us and share our links, so we can expand our film’s educational and science components.
When this new generation of young scientists visit the Antarctic, they will be treading on a visionary concept – a continent that is legally owned by no one and solely dedicated to the pursuit of science, peace and environmental conservation. The size of the US and Mexico combined, all 5.4 million square miles of this massive continent are overseen by the 50 member nations of the Antarctic Treaty System.
The way Ron Naveen got involved goes back to the early nineties, when the Treaty System outlined a need for baseline data on geographical and biological features in this fragile region. Having been an expedition leader in the Peninsula area, he knew which sites to visit and which had the most diverse species. With Oceanites already in existence, Ron secured funding from the US Marine Mammal Commission in 1993 to develop a plan for such a database. One year later with funding from the NSF’s Office of Polar Programs, the Antarctic Site Inventory was born.
From the start, penguin colonies were ideal for Ron’s study, which fit his passion for seabirds perfectly. With accessible nesting areas and population sites that could potentially be monitored from season to season, penguins offered the best clues on environmental changes. Unlike any other research project in the Antarctic, the ASI covers an area of half a million square miles, achievable only because they work ‘as nomads’, far from permanent research stations. Hence their data is comprehensive and unprecedented.
Yet with the size of the Antarctic, the penguin counters operate in only a very small corner of this astonishing continent.
‘It’s so quiet here,’ says Ron, ‘that all you hear are the penguins and your heartbeats thumping through your parka. It’s a place to study, a place to think, and of course, a place to dream.’
Please let these dreams include you. We are grateful for any donation, large or small. Funding beyond our goal will be used for extra science and educational materials – all important and very much needed to keep the research going.
Detroit is known to be the home of Tigers and Lions (think baseball and football), but now the Penguin Post has learned that the Detroit Zoo will be home to the largest center in the U.S. dedicated to penguins, thanks to the most substantial private donation in its 85-year history, the zoo announced Wednesday.
Construction on the $21 million facility will begin “in earnest” in March and is expected to open in late 2015, said Ron Kagan, the zoo’s executive director and CEO. “We don’t think there is anything comparable,” Kagan said at a news event that featured a 3-D film and “snow” that fell on attendees. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest … facility that is entirely dedicated to penguins.”
The 24,000-square-foot center is being made possible, in part, by the biggest private donation in the zoo’s history, $10 million given by Stephen Polk and his family. Polk is vice chair of the zoo’s board and a longtime executive with automotive information provider R.L. Polk & Co. The facility will carry the name The Polk Family Penguin Conservation Center. Kagan said the zoo still needs to raise $8 million to reach the $21 million total.
The exterior of the center will look like an iceberg. Inside, visitors will have the opportunity to see the seabirds “deep dive” in a chilled 310,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area. It is something that can’t be seen anywhere else, even in nature, the zoo said. “Penguins will literally be doing laps around us,” said Kagan, who took several research trips to Antarctica, including this past January. The feature is deeper and larger than the pool at the Arctic Ring of Life, one of the zoo’s main attractions in which polar bears swim above visitors. The center, which will be home to 80 penguins of four species — rockhopper, macaroni, king and gentoo — is to be built on a 2.1-acre site near the entrance to the zoo, which is in suburban Royal Oak. Officials said the penguins’ habitat will be optimal for the animals’ welfare and encourage wild behavior, including diving, nesting and rearing young. The facility also will feature simulated Antarctic blasts, rough waves and snow. It has been in the planning and design phase for two years and represents the largest project the zoo has ever undertaken. Kagan said it is fitting that the center will be at the Detroit Zoo, “which in the mid-’60s created the first Penguinarium of any zoo anywhere.”
The Penguin Conservation Center was designed by Jones & Jones, the architects behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Detroit Zoo’s Arctic Ring of Life.
Little blue penguin enthusiasts will soon know more about the fishing habits of the birds whose movements are about to be tracked for the first time on the West Coast of New Zealand. Six GPS tracking devises will be fitted onto penguins from two colonies with nest boxes at Charleston and will track their movements at sea. The Blue Penguin Trust of New Zealand had been measuring breeding success at Charleston, including when eggs were laid, when chicks hatched and how many chicks survived, said trust ranger Reuben Lane. “That’s given us a pretty good idea of what’s happening on land. That’s why we’re moving to this tracking study because we sort of need to fill in the other part of the picture,” said Mr Lane. “They are marine birds, they spend most of their time at sea, so we kind of need to know about that.” The trust hoped to find out where the penguins were fishing. That information had implications when marine reserves, bottom trawling or any activity that might impact the penguins was being discussed. “If we don’t know where they’re going then we can’t have an intelligent input into that kind of discussion,” said Mr Lane. While there had been a lot of work done on tracking penguins, none had been done on New Zealand’s West Coast. The Coast’s birds and its fisheries were different to elsewhere in the country. Antarctic currents meant the east coast had a rich sea life close to the shore, whereas he thought the birds struggled more on the West Coast. Analysis of stomach contents showed Coast birds often seemed to have to feed on squid, which Mr Lane described as “the tofu of the sea” without much nutritional value. Temperatures on the West Coast also meant the fish tended to be more spread out and harder to catch. While it was the first time the devices were being used on the Coast, the same work had been done at Phillip Island near Melbourne in Australia. Mr Lane said he was there in May learning how to apply the devices. The devices were smaller than a matchbox. They were taped to the feathers on the penguins’ backs, just above their tails, so they could still steer. They were designed not to create drag and didn’t seem to hinder the birds. The GPS devices would be put on birds with young chicks who were going out fishing for a day at a time, leaving at dawn, then returning just after dark. They would stay on each bird for a day before being moved onto another one. Mr Lane said the first penguin chick should hatch in about three weeks time so he hoped to deploy a few tracking units in mid-October.
Did you know that penguins didn’t always boast tuxedo-like black-and-white markings, according to a new study. The discovery of the first ancient penguin fossil with evidence of feathers reveals the aquatic birds were not black and white but were once reddish-brown and gray.
The 36 million-year-old fossil represents one of the largest ancient penguins ever found. The bird would have been 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, and probably weighed twice as much as modern Emperor penguins, which average about 66 pounds (30 kilograms). Its long, grooved beak suggests that, like modern penguins, it hunted by diving for fish. Imprints of feathers in the rock around the bones could help researchers understand how modern penguin feathers evolved, said Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at The University of Texas at Austin and a co-author of the paper.
The fossil, a new species named Inkayacu paracasensis (or “Water King”), was discovered in the Reserva Nacional de Paracas, a desert preserve on the coast of Peru. Researchers in the field noticed evidence of scaly skin on the fossil foot, prompting suspicion that more evidence of soft tissue might have been preserved. When Clarke examined the specimen in the lab, those suspicions proved true.
“I turned over a flake of rock right near one of the wing elements, and right there was our first evidence of feathering,” she told LiveScience. To find out what color those feathers might have been, the researchers examined the shape of the penguin’s melanosomes. These tiny structures resembling pockets contain pigment cells that help give bird feathers their color. The analysis showed that the ancient feathers were likely reddish-brown and gray.
“The plumage of these animals was in a very different palette of what we see in living penguins today,” Clarke said. While comparing the ancient penguin’s melanosomes to modern birds, the researchers noticed another oddity: Modern penguin melanosomes are different from those of other modern birds. They’re broader and clustered in patterns not seen in other species.
Stranger still, the ancient penguin’s melanosomes didn’t match modern penguins’ and instead looked like the melanosomes of other modern birds. The feathers themselves were shaped and stacked like those of modern penguins, suggesting that the ancient penguin had already evolved to swim. The broad melanosomes, however, must have evolved later, perhaps as a way to make feathers more resistant to the wear and tear of swimming underwater, the researchers wrote in the Sept. 20 online edition of the journal Science. Black-and-white coloring would have evolved later, as camouflage from predators like seals that weren’t yet around when the newly discovered penguin species roamed the seas.
“It’s a quite interesting find, because not only the feather preservation, but also because they found a nearly complete skeleton,” said Gerald Mayr, a paleornithologist at the Senckenberg Museum of National History in Germany, who was not involved in the study. However, Mayr said, the theory that physical forces acted on penguin feathers to change the evolution of melanosomes is contradicted by the fact that half of modern penguin feathers are white and contain no melanosomes, despite being subject to the same hydrodynamic forces as melanosome-rich black feathers.
“The main question certainly is, if not due to hydrodynamic forces, why do penguins have such strange melanosomes?” Mayr said. The new fossil is the first chance researchers have had to ask such questions about how penguin feathers evolved to ‘fly’ not in the air, but underwater, Clarke said. “It’s a pretty major transition to go from aerial flight to aquatic flight, to flying in a medium that’s around 800 times denser than air,” Clarke said, adding: “I think there will be more to the story of this penguin’s feathering.”
The Penguin Post has learned that the Edinburgh Zoo’s new penguin enclosure is set to reopen to the public following a $900,000 revamp. The outdoor pool, called Penguins Rock, offers improved viewing areas for people visiting one of the zoo’s most popular species. For the penguins themselves, the attraction has mock sandy beaches and rocky areas, a waterfall feature, a water shoot and a diving board made out of carved rock. The development also includes a “state-of-the-art” filtration system for the 1.2m litres of water it holds.
Colin Oulton, team leader for birds at the zoo, said: “The new enclosure is a wonderful addition to our visitor attraction and perfect for our penguins. “The birds, both returning and new, have settled in very quickly to the Penguins Rock. “In fact, breeding season will shortly be here and many of our returning birds are already claiming their favorite nesting spots.” Bosses said the existing pool had served the zoo’s large colony of penguins well for more than 20 years but it was starting to need some work behind the scenes, so it made sense to combine it with a visual overhaul.
Darren McGarry, head of living collections, said the animals have been getting used to their refurbished enclosure in recent weeks. “Our penguins have been reintroduced back into their home over the last few weeks, with the 28 gentoos and 27 rockhoppers that remained at Edinburgh Zoo going in first,” he said. “It was a pleasure to see the birds start to interact with the new features of their enclosure – trying out the water slide and sticking their beaks into their new waterfall. The waterfall has actually proved to be a real hit with the gentoo’s. “Next, a week later, came gentoo birds that had been staying in Belfast and Denmark, and there was lots of calling out as birds definitely recognized old friends. “As well as old faces returning, we also welcome a mix of new one and two-year-old gentoos to Edinburgh Zoo as it is important to keep genetic diversity within populations.
“We are really looking forward to see the reactions of our visitors as they see our new enclosure and see our famous black and white birds enjoy all its new features, the mock sandy beach, the clear aqua blue water and creative bird themed interpretation, to name just a few of exciting changes. “However, it is the opportunity to feel so close to the birds due to the new lowered sightlines, and glass barriers and wood perimeters, that we particularly hope people will be thrilled with.” The new enclosure opens to the public on Thursday.