Archive for February, 2016

Have The Missing Adelie Penguins Rescued Themselves?

February 19, 2016

People who know me know I have a thing for penguins and everywhere I went this past week friends have mentioned if heard about the the demise of thousands of penguins in Antarctica?   My response was and is, people, people let’s give the penguins a little credit.

Yes, the news reported around the world was startling — that some 150,000 Adélie penguins have died in Antarctica because a colossal iceberg cut off their sea access.

But there’s no proof that the birds are dead. No one has actually found 150,000 frozen penguins. In fact, many experts think there’s a much less horrific explanation for the missing birds: When the going (fishing) gets tough, the penguins simply pick up and move. It wouldn’t be the first time Adélie penguins marched to new digs. When an iceberg grounded in the southern Ross Sea in 2001, penguins on Ross Island relocated to nearby colonies until the ice broke up.

“Just because there are a lot fewer birds observed doesn’t automatically mean the ones that were there before have perished,” said Michelle LaRue, a penguin population researcher at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who was not involved in the study. “They easily could have moved elsewhere, which would make sense if nearby colonies are thriving,” LaRue told the Penguin Post in an email interview.

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What’s Black & Black and Waddles?

February 9, 2016

The Penguin Post has learned that an all black penguin was spotted by wildlife watchers at Fortuna Bay on South Georgia, about 860 miles off the Falklands in the Atlantic.

After being shown the pictures by National Geographic magazine, Dr Allan Baker of the University of Toronto described them as ‘astonishing’.  ‘I’ve never ever seen that before,’ he said. ‘It’s a one in a zillion kind of mutation somewhere. The animal has lost control of its pigmentation patterns. Presumably it’s some kind of mutation.’

The photograph was taken by Andrew Evans, one of those who spotted the penguin among several thousand of its normal-colored counterparts. Observing this black penguin waddle across South Georgia’s black sand beach revealed no different behavior than that of his fellow penguins,’ he wrote on a National Geographic blog

‘In fact, he seemed to mix well. Regarding feeding and mating behavior there is no real way to tell, but I do know that we were all fascinated by his presence and wished him the best for the coming winter season.’ Because black penguins are particularly rare there has been very little research into them.

It is estimated that about one in every 250,000 penguins shows evidence of the condition – but few are as completely black as the penguin pictured here.

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I’m Dreaming Of A White Penguin

February 6, 2016

Penguins are one of the more popular and easily recognizable members of the animal kingdom. They’ve been studied and observed so much that you probably think you’ve seen it all when it comes to our adorable, flightless friends. Well, Penguin Post readers, guess again.

When a team of scientists working for National Geographic were exploring the Lindbald region of northern Antarctica, they came across a remarkably a very rare penguin specimen.  An Albino chinstrap penguin.   02-mutant-blonde-penguin.jpg

The Curious Case Of New Zealand’s Little Blue Penguins

February 3, 2016

The curious case of Little Blue Penguin in New Zealand has baffled scientist for years, as these waddling Australian invaders have long managed to blend in with the native New Zealand little blue penguins and now has just taken another mysterious twist.

Researchers recently revealed an Otago, NZ population of the world’s smallest — and possibly cutest — penguin species actually hailed from across the Tasman Sea and have now confirmed the immigrants arrived from Australia as recently as the past few hundred years.

It’s the latest instance in which DNA analysis has dramatically changed what we know about many of New Zealand’s supposedly native species.

Following startling findings in December that, for the first time, described two distinct species of little blue penguin in New Zealand, a paper published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences finds the newcomers probably arrived here between 1500 and 1900.

This up-ended previous theories that the Australians had been here for thousands of years.

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As part of her PhD research at Otago University, Dr Stefanie Grosser analysed ancient DNA from the remains of more than 100 little penguins, including bones dating back to pre-human times and specimens from archaeological deposits and museums.

“Amazingly, all of the bones older than 400 years belong to the native New Zealand species,” she said.

Dr Grosser said the arrival apparently followed the decline of the native penguin, which early human settlers and introduced predators hunted.

The Australian species were set apart by a few subtle differences in their color, body and cranium size.

Other researchers had previously shown that calls differed between Australian and New Zealand little penguins and females preferred the calls of males of their own species.

“You could say the Aussies like hearing ‘feesh’, while ‘fush’ sounds better to Kiwi ears,” Dr Grosser joked at the time of the December findings.

But how they got here remains a mystery — and one we might never solve.

“It’s one of those unlikely events that they happened to rock up on the Otago coastline and got a foothold,” said study leader Professor Jon Waters, of Otago University’s Department of Zoology.

“You could make up a story that maybe an Australian ship picked up 10 and brought them over, but I’d find that really hard to believe.”

The Australian sub-population appears confined to Otago. DNA analysis from other colonies, such as Wellington, Kaikoura and Banks Peninsula, turned up only the New Zealand lineage.

“It’s possible we might find another colony of Aussies somewhere like Fiordland, we don’t know.”

Professor Waters believed the findings should bring about a different approach to the species’ conservation.

“We have to think about them as being not one thing, but two, and manage them separately — so there might be a real paradigm shift.”

The native penguin, which on average stands at just 25cm and weighs 1kg, is considered in decline in New Zealand. Dogs pose their greatest threat.

The research, supported by the Marsden Fund and the now-closed Allan Wilson Centre, also provides the latest example of penguins winding up on foreign shores far from home.

Little blue penguins have been found as far as Patagonia in South America.

Other famous penguin stories have included the Antarctic emperor penguin Happy Feet, which captured Kiwi hearts after it arrived in Kapiti in 2011, and Katrina, a Fiordland penguin that swam 3000km to Mt Gambier, South Australia, in 2013.

It’s Penguin (Groundhog) Day!

February 2, 2016

Who you gonna believe a groundhog or the winter weather expert Penguin?  So welcome to Penguin (Groundhog) Day!  Since we all know that pretty much every day is Penguin Day, it just couldn’t be called “Penguin Day”, so as a reference to this new twist (waddle) to this annual prediction of early or late spring, Penguin (Groundhog) Day it is.   So if you really want to know when this Winter will be over, this morning a real penguin waddled out of his enclosure to forecast more winter or early spring on Galveston Island at Moody Gardens.  In groundhog fashion, this Aquarium Pyramid penguin saw his shadow this morning and made his prediction. The penguin then communicated with Greg Whittaker, Moody Gardens animal husbandry manager, who  translated the “Penguish” declaration into the human language.  To the delight of penguins everywhere. More Winter it is!

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Yes, he saw his shadow!