Scientists Tracking Penguins

Do Antarctic penguins  have time to chill out in the winter, or must they swim miles to forage for food? Do their travels resemble the depictions in movies like “Happy Feet”?  The Penguin Post has learned that now you can track the animals’ movements, thanks to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla.  Scientists from the facility have attached satellite tags to 61 of the creatures. They and the public will be able to see the results on an online map.  Gentoo and chinstrap penguins recently were outfitted with cell phone-sized transmitters that send information to satellites whenever the animals surface. The researchers will process information on the species’ range of movement, the places they frequent most and the temperatures and salinity levels of those areas.  “No one has ever done this many species from one location and see how they disperse over the winter,” said Mike Goebel, a researcher for the fisheries center, which is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  “Prior to doing this study, we had no idea which species remain in the Antarctic (for the winter) and which species migrate.”  Federal researchers typically monitor the Antarctic ecosystem from October through March, which is summertime there. “Our research has led us to believe that the winter activities of these animals are important to their reproductive success,” said biologist Amy Van Cise from the center. “For example, their ability to forage during the winter is linked to their ability to reproduce and raise offspring the following summer.”

Chinstraps like this little guy are one of the species being tracked.

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