Posts Tagged ‘Chinstrap Penguin’

World’s First Test Tube Penguin

October 29, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that a Chinstrap penguin chick which has the unglamorous title of ‘184’ until it is given a name, was hatched at SeaWorld in San Diego 12 weeks ago, though the first images of her were only made public this week.

Penguin 184’s success could help scientists restore threatened penguin populations in future

Penguin 184’s success could help scientists restore threatened penguin populations in future

184, who is the first penguin to be born via artificial insemination, represents a huge step for researchers in helping to diversify captive penguin populations and aid their studies.

Penguin Populations Increasing? Depends Who You Ask.

July 17, 2014

There’s no denying that climate change is real, but according to recent reports there’s also no denying scientific evidence indicating that certain penguin populations are healthy and growing. Or is there?

The Penguin Post  has learned that researchers recently attempted to count all of the Adélie penguins in Antarctica and found, to their own surprise, that the numbers of this white-eyed breed are exploding on the frigid continent, according to the Wall Street Journal. This contradicts claims by activists that the flightless bird is a victim of global warming whose dwindling numbers can be directly linked to dwindling ice caps. Wildlife biologists closely monitor Adélie penguins because their status correlates with annual sea-ice conditions and temperature trends.

But the Adélie population is actually 53 percent larger than previously estimated by using satellite technology, having increased globally by 29 percent in two decades, although this may have more to do with previous under-counting than the Adelie’s thriving under present conditions.

Heather Lynch of Stony Brook University, in New York, and imaging specialist Michelle LaRue of the University of Minnesota counted the birds by satellite and found that the Adélie penguin population is now 3.79 million breeding pairs, with 251 colonies.

The survey, published online this week by the American Ornithologists’ Union, coincides with another satellite census of Emperor penguins conducted in 2012 by geographers at the British Antarctic Survey that happened upon twice as many Emperor penguins as scientists had previously thought existed.

A recent article from Reuters.com reported findings from a study predicting that global warming would reduce Antarctica’s Emperor penguin population from 600,000 to around 480,000 by 2100. Governments have been reluctant to list the birds as endangered, however, because populations in 45 known colonies are supposed to rise until 2050 before declining. Emperors are one of three species considered stable, and of the 18 penguin species, only King, Adélie, and Chinstrap penguins are said to be increasing.

That is, unless the one talking is Ron Naveen, founder of the scientific research organization Oceanites, who told ABCnews.com, “We know two of the three penguin species in the peninsula, Chinstrap and Adélie, are declining significantly in a region where, in the last 60 years, it’s warmed by five degrees Fahrenheit annually and by nine degrees Fahrenheit in winter.” This organization found that it is actually the Gentoo species that is increasing.

In June, another University of Minnesota study led by LaRue discovered that Emperor penguins may be behaving so as to adapt to their changing environment better than expected. The researchers recorded “six instances in just three years in which emperor penguins did not return to the same location to breed,” pointing to a newly found colony on the Antarctic Peninsula that may indicate the relocation of penguins.

“Our research showing that colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviors we thought we understood about emperor penguins,” LaRue told Sciencedaily.com. The assumption that Emperor penguins return to the same locations annually does not account for the satellite images. These birds move among colonies.

“That means we need to revisit how we interpret population changes and the causes of those changes,” LaRue said.

A colony called Pointe Géologie, of March of the Penguins fame, has been studied for over 60 years. Researchers track certain birds in the colony every year to see if they rejoin the colony. In recent decades researchers worried that receding sea ice might be affecting the Emperor penguins in the colony who breed on it. A five-year decline in the late 1970s that diminished the colony by half was thought to be the result of warming temperatures in the Southern Ocean.

Now high-resolution satellite pictures have revealed the entire coastline and all the sea ice for researchers to peruse. Before this imagery, scientists thought Pointe Géologie was isolated, preventing the penguins from traveling elsewhere. The images show, however, that Pointe Géologie is actually within comfortable distance of neighboring colonies. The discrepancies in population numbers may be a function of where researchers are looking.

LaRue explains the significance of this data.

“It’s possible that birds have moved away from Pointe Géologie to these other spots and that means that maybe those banded birds didn’t die,” LaRue concluded. “If we want to accurately conserve the species, we really need to know the basics. We’ve just learned something unexpected, and we should rethink how we interpret colony fluctuations.”

Adelie Penguins

Adelie Penguins

Penguin Adaptation And Climate Change

July 7, 2014

As we at the Penguin Post have learned penguins are on the front line of climate change as an indicator species.  So, as global  temperatures rise and the ice melts, the iconic and lovable flightless birds that call Antarctica home force researchers to sit up and take notice.

A gentoo on the ice

A gentoo on the ice

Scientists who count the birds are finding that penguins are beginning to feel major impacts from the drastic changes to their habitat. But, perhaps surprisingly, the breeding populations of three brush-tailed species of penguins inhabiting the Western Antarctic Peninsula, where the temperatures are warmest, are not all falling as the ice is quickly melting. “We know two of the three penguin species in the peninsula, chinstrap and Adélie, are declining significantly in a region where, in the last 60 years, it’s warmed by 3 degrees C. (5 degrees F.) in the summer and by 5 degrees C. (9 degrees F.) in winter,” said Ron Naveen, the founder of Oceanites, a U.S. based non-profit and scientific research organization. He oversees the Antarctic Site Inventory which monitors penguin populations.

A third species, Gentoo’s, has not been losing numbers and in fact has even been expanding its range. Counting penguins in the wild is a complicated art. Naveen’s team makes repeated visits every year to the Antarctic Peninsula from November to February when egg-laying and chick creching are at their peak. Since 1994, he has conducted 1,421 visits to the peninsula and collected data from 209 sites.

Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguin

Naveen and fellow penguin counter Heather Lynch of Stony Brook University say the warming climate and the consequent loss of sea ice are contributing to the decline in Adelie and chinstrap, because the two species are dependent on the sea ice. Warming temperature is only one part of the whole story, however, according to the Naveen. “There are a number of possibilities,” he said. Adelies and chinstrap nest primarily near the ice and rely on krill as their main food source. These shrimp-like vertebrates live underneath the ice, feeding on the algae that grows there. As the ice retreats, the krill in turn disappear. Other factors such as commercial overfishing and the expanding population of humpback whales, which also feed on krill, may also contribute to the loss of their main food source.

By contrast, gentoo penguins are expanding both in numbers and in geographical range, according to Naveen and Lynch’s research because they are not as dependent on the sea ice for breeding and feeding. There are an estimated 387,000 gentoo breeding pairs and their populations are moving southward along the peninsula. “Gentoos are an open water species and can move southward as the declining ice concentration makes new habitat available to them,” Lynch said.  So as far as penguins are concerned in the new world of Antarctic global warming, we have some penguins able to adapt better than others, and given the rate of change, rapid adaptation will be the key to a species thriving.

Blonde (not albino) Penguin

January 16, 2012

Last week the Penguin Post reported the discovery of an albino Chinstrap penguin, but we stand corrected.  He’s leucistic—not albino—which means his coloring is muted but he still has pigmented eyes, making camouflage and fishing more difficult. Yet despite these disadvantages, blonde penguins are regularly found breeding normally.Penguins’ black and white coloring is essential to their survival, so exactly why has this blonde penguin survived?

The penguin was spotted at the edge of the South Shetland Islands by tourists and naturalist David Stephens. They were all aboard the National Geographic Journey to Antarctica. Stephens, of the Lindblad Expeditions cruise company, which is running the cruise, wrote on his blog: “Despite colorful variation in facial patterns, all penguins are decked in the standard black and white pattern. This is no accident. Counter-shading camouflage is so necessary to diving birds that all are fundamentally alike. But to our astonishment we found an exception. At the water’s edge stood a leucistic Chinstrap. This bird was whitish, but not quite an albino. Instead, it had pigmented eyes and a washed-out version of a Chinstrap’s normal pattern. Many wondered about this unusual bird’s chances of success. While odd coloration may make fishing a bit more difficult, leucistic birds are regularly found breeding normally.” The leucistic penguins have a reduced level of pigmentation but still have pigmented eyes, according to National Geographic. Penguins’ countershaded dark and white colors camouflage them from above from predators. Stephens wrote on his blog, “Many wondered about this unusual bird’s chances of success. While odd coloration may make fishing a bit more difficult, leucistic birds are regularly found breeding normally.”  So good to you luck blonde, have a long, wonderful, waddling life.

Rare Albino Penguin Sighting

January 11, 2012

The Penguin Post has learned that David Stephens, a naturalist aboard Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Explorer ship, photographed this rare white Chinstrap penguin on Monday on Antarctica’s Aitcho Islands.

“At the water’s edge stood a leucistic Chinstrap,” Stephens wrote in the ship’s daily expedition report. “This bird was whitish, but not quite an albino. Instead, it had pigmented eyes and a washed-out version of a Chinstrap’s normal pattern. Many wondered about this unusual bird’s chances of success. While odd coloration may make fishing a bit more difficult, leucistic birds are regularly found breeding normally.” A leucistic bird has reduced pigmention, unlike a bird with albinism, which is a lack of skin pigment. The standard black-and-white coloring found on penguins serves as camouflage that aids the bird in fishing, so it’s unusual to find a penguin without it. “It is a fairly rare phenomenon,” said Dyan deNapoli, a penguin expert and author of “The Great Penguin Rescue,” who added that the rate of leucism in Chinstrap penguins is about 1 in 146,000. “When I was in Antarctica, I never saw one, and I saw a lot of penguins.”