Posts Tagged ‘falkland Islands’

Penguins As Job Bait

September 11, 2015

Government officials in the Falkland Islands are hoping that a photograph of two penguins might encourage a UK lawyer to apply for a job opening managing courts in the Falkland Islands.

The Falkland Islands Government has attached the penguin picture to a job advertisement next to the question “Looking for Something Different?”  Since there are many times more penguins in the Falklands than people.

The Penguin Post has learned that Falkland officials have advertised the new Head of Courts and Tribunal Services job, which pays between £38,000 and £53,000 a year, in London-based legal magazine Counsel.

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Penguin Monogamy and Separation

September 9, 2015

With its spiky head plumage and intense red eyes, the southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome, seen above) looks more like a punk guy with attitude than a committed monogamous penguin partner. But these males mate for life, reuniting with the same female year after year during mating season. Despite their monogamous mating patterns, however, the penguins really don’t spend much time together,  according to a new study. Using GPS trackers mounted to the penguins’ legs, scientists monitored 16 Rockhoppers from a colony in the Falkland Islands over the course of a mating season.

sn-penguins_2 The data show that males arrived at the nesting site approximately 6 days before their female counterparts and stayed about 6 days longer. However, the short mating season means the pairs are only united for about 20 days a year. And when they were separated, it was usually by a large distance: During the winter months, partners were separated by an average distance of about 400 miles, and one pair was observed as far as 1800 miles apart, the team reports online today in Biology Letters. Despite the large spatial segregation, their habitats were quite similar, ruling out the possibility that partners are spending the winter months apart because of sex-based differences in habitat or food preference. So why don’t the birds just stick together? So far it’s still a mystery, but the team speculates that if the penguins arrived at and left the nesting site at the same time, they’d be much more likely to spend the winter together. But because the females show up late and leave early, the problem of finding one another after a week of dispersing through the open ocean might not be worth it—it’s just easier to just meet back at the nesting site next year.

Incredibly Penguin Meets Horse!

July 13, 2015

The Penguin Post has learned of the rarest of meetings in the wild.  A herd of horses on the Falkland Islands, in the South Atlantic Ocean, were treated to quite a delightful surprise recently as a King penguin decided to waddle on by for an unexpected visit. a09ba1d1eec259d9adcc5fbfa1bece1fcfac97d9e6df1d1ddf9db6e1f5e37f69As photos show, the horses couldn’t have been happier with their regal-looking guest.  Sarah Croft, an officer from Falklands Conservation, explained that she had just finished feeding the herd when their ears suddenly perked up as the penguin approached, and fortunately she had her camera on her to capture this encounter. 0bc8cb671ba65adf085d954bf2f080e43211ce32df266b301a0b5f90e8e2e1d8“He caught all of their attention. From afar, the horses were just curious, but then the penguin got closer and some of the horses came in for a closer look,” she said. “They’ve never seen a King penguin before, so I think they were quite fascinated with what it was.” ddb58896b3d08ecb5bf0f1c76bd2677da5b39a474b7e51abce70c2423680db9cThe penguin, who had wandered inland from the nearby coast, seemed at ease as the large, curious animals all gathered around to check him out.  Given the King penguin’s far-southern habitat, such a meeting between these two species isn’t likely to occur anywhere else on the planet, says Croft: “You don’t see horses and penguins overlapping very much. I think it’s a uniquely Falklands encounter, and even here the penguins mostly stay in their colonies near the shore.  But, as we have horses on the Falkands, and it’s right in the northern range of the King penguin I guess anything can happen.” falkland-islands-mapDespite the differences in their size, species, and formality of their attire, the unlikely reunion between penguin and equine was surprisingly pleasant.”I’ve never come across anything like it before,” said Croft. “It was just one of those moments — very novel, quite unique. Just seeing it, I was amazed.”

Prehistoric Penguin Population Roller Coaster Ride

September 18, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that a recent study of how penguin populations have changed over the last 30,000 years has shown that between the last ice age and up to around 1,000 years ago penguin populations benefitted from climate warming and retreating ice. This suggests that recent declines in penguins may be because ice is now retreating too far or too fast.

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An international team, led by scientists from the Universities of Southampton and Oxford, has used a genetic technique to estimate when current genetic diversity arose in penguins and to recreate past population sizes. Looking at the 30,000 years before human activity impacted the climate, as Antarctica gradually warmed, they found that three species of penguin; Chinstrap, Adélie and southern populations of Gentoo penguins increased in numbers. In contrast, Gentoo penguins on the Falkland Islands were relatively stable, as they were not affected by large changes in ice extent.

A report of the research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead author of the paper, Gemma Clucas, from Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton comments: “Whereas we typically think of penguins as relying on ice, this research shows that during the last ice age there was probably too much ice around Antarctica to support the large populations we see today. The penguins we studied need ice-free ground to breed on and they need to be able to access the ocean to feed. The extensive ice-sheets and sea ice around Antarctica would have made it inhospitable for them.

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“What is particularly interesting is that after the ice age, all of these penguin populations were climate change ‘winners’, that is to say the warming climate allowed them to expand and increase in number. However, this is not the pattern we’re seeing today. Adélie and Chinstrap penguins appear to be declining due to climate change around the Antarctic Peninsula, so they’ve become ‘losers’. Only the Gentoo penguin has continued to be a ‘winner’ and is expanding its range southward.”

Dr Tom Hart of the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, an author of the paper, continues: “We are not saying that today’s warming climate is good for penguins, in fact the current decline of some penguin species suggests that the warming climate has gone too far for most penguins.
“What we have found is that over the last 30,000 years different penguin species have responded very differently to a gradually warming world, not something we might expect given the damage current rapid warming seems to be doing to penguins’ prospects.”

To estimate changes in penguin genetic diversity, the researchers collected feathers and blood samples from 537 penguins in colonies around the Antarctic Peninsula. The scientists then sequenced a region of mitochondrial DNA that evolves relatively quickly. Using the rate of mutation of this region of DNA as a calibration point, the researchers were able to chart how the size of these populations has varied over time. The team working on the project included scientists from the British Antarctic Survey and also US scientists from Oceanites Inc, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

“During the last ice age Antarctica was encircled by 100 per cent more winter sea ice than today,” says Dr Tom Hart. “As ice retreated, these penguins had access to more breeding sites and more open ocean to feed.”

Penguin Ale

June 17, 2014

After discussing the aptly monikered Tactical Nuclear Penguin beer last week, the Penguin Post would like to remind everyone that for a brief shining moment back in the mid- 1980’s, there was the wonderfully named Penguin Ale, with an equally fab, classic looking label and timeless penguin logo.  However, sadly production of the only beer commercially brewed in the Falkland Islands (Penguin or otherwise) ground to a halt more than 25 years ago.
Everards Penguin Ale was produced in Port Stanley just after the 1982 Falkland Islands War between Britain and Argentina. The ale was offered from 1983 until 1986, in a move by Everards to supply the British  military forces stationed on the Islands after the conflict with some much-needed home comforts. But, apparently Penguin Ale, produced by the Everards micro-brewery wasn’t quite up to the taste of the servicemen, who were accustomed to the draught ale and beer served up in British pubs, while the local Falkland Islanders were already firmly attached to their imported McEwans ale and Tennents lager.  So, sadly as much as the local powers that be tried to champion their new domestic Penguin Ale, it never caught on and waddled into the sunset in 1986.  Of course I still have my bottle given to me by the then Governour General  of the Falklands, Sir Rex Hunt in the late 1980’s, and no I have not yet opened it. eb4626ce5c0611e3bcbd12632825247e_8

King Penguins: Past, Present and Future

June 11, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that King penguins colonized a string of islands north of Antarctica about 15,000 years ago, after glaciers melted and the climate warmed, according to a new genetic study. The balmier weather gave the penguins two things they needed to thrive: ice-free pockets of land on which to raise their chicks, and food  within swimming range for feeding those chicks, the study found. “When you have these two conditions, these two parameters that are met, then the population can just explode,” said study co-author Emiliano Trucchi, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Vienna in Austria.

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King penguins are the second-largest penguins in the world and live on more temperate islands that are closest to Antarctica, such as South Georgia, Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. But the biggest breeding grounds for king penguins are on the Crozet Islands, a string of islands in the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.  In the summer, the penguins dive for tiny lanternfishes about 250 miles from the archipelago, returning every three to five days to feed their chicks. The lanternfishes congregate in an ocean region called the polar front, where cold polar water meets the warmer tropical water, creating a sharp temperature gradient. In the winter, the penguins venture about 620 miles to the fringes of Antarctica to forage for food, though exactly what they eat is a mystery, said study co-author Céline Le Bohec, a polar ecologist at the Centre Scientifique de Monaco.

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To understand how the Kings first reached the Crozet Islands, Le Bohec and her colleagues snuck onto the edges of the penguins’ breeding colonies, quietly taking two- to three-week-old chicks from right under their parents’ noses and replacing them with fake eggs. “This is really weird,” Le Bohec said.  “If you are delicate enough and quick enough, really the adult doesn’t notice what you are doing.” Outside the colony, the researchers measured the baby penguins’ weights, as well as the beaks, flippers and feet. Then, the team took a few drops of blood from the chicks to test their DNA. (Past studies have shown that the king penguin colonies have adjusted to these human intrusions.)

The team analyzed about 65,000 snippets of DNA from eight king penguins. Because the base pairs, or letters in DNA, mutate at a slow but somewhat predictable rate over time, calculating how many of these stretches of DNA contain the same letter sequence can reveal how long ago the population expanded.

The team found that most of the genetic regions were very similar in the penguins, indicating that they originated from a very small initial population. Furthermore, the population began expanding about 15,000 years ago — right after the last ice age was ending and the glaciers were retreating from the islands. “Just as soon as the breeding sites were available, then the population just skyrocketed,” Trucchi added.

The new model underscores conditions the penguins need to thrive, which could help researchers predict how penguins will adapt to climate change. But the future doesn’t look so hot for the King penguins. Current models predict that unmitigated climate change will push the polar front south, taking the penguins’ summer staple of lanternfishes farther from the islands.

This will make it hard for the penguins to live on the islands, as they need to feed their chicks frequently in the summer, and can only swim so far to do that, Le Bohec said. “If we don’t change our human behavior, I think in 200 years, it will be quite nasty for king penguins,” Le Bohec said.

Tracking Young King Penguins

May 18, 2014

Why are some young penguins able to survive on their own when so many others aren’t? To find out, scientists enlisted the help of 18 fledgling king penguins that were getting ready to leave their home colonies. All of the birds were outfitted with transponders that sent signals to satellites, allowing scientists to track the penguins’ whereabouts.

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Only about half of the king penguin chicks born in the wild survive to their first birthday, and the ones that don’t make it are most vulnerable in the weeks after they set off on their own. Why are some birds able to survive when so many others aren’t?

To find out, scientists enlisted the help of 18 fledgling king penguins that were getting ready to leave their home colonies. From the Falkland Islands off the southern coast of Argentina, the volunteers included Leo, Jacki, Susi, Gus, Iona, Caldera, Hansueli, WaRu, RuWa and Youngster. From South Georgia Island, a British territory several hundred miles to the east, researchers got help from Dixi, Wicky, Tankini, Ueli, Ursula, Saanenland, Traudel and King Georg.

Penguins at Edinburgh Zoo

All of these birds were outfitted with transponders that sent signals to satellites, allowing scientists to track the penguins’ whereabouts, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE. The 60-gram devices were “hydrodynamically shaped in order to minimise drag and centered on the middle of the back in order not to compromise the penguins’ balance or create excessive hydrodynamic drag.” Scientists attached them to the penguins with black waterproof tape, glue and epoxy.

More than 3 million king penguins live on islands just north of Antarctica, including 450,000 breeding pairs on South Georgia and about 720 breeding pairs on the Falkland Islands. They feed on small fish they catch along the Antarctic Polar Front, a roughly 25-mile-wide zone encircling Antarctica where cold waters sink below warmer ones from the north. When they are caring for hatchlings and stay closer to home, they also hunt for squid.

Though not endangered, king penguins are protected. Permission to tag the young birds was granted by the Animal Ethics Committee of the British Antarctic Survey.

The researchers, from Europe, Argentina and the Falkland Islands, attached transponders to the fledgling penguins in December 2007. The devices emitted signals once a minute for four hours a day. Between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2008, the researchers determined the most accurate position for each day and included that data in their analysis. Altogether, they collected location data for a total of 2,111 penguin-days, with a typical penguin being tracked for 117 days.

The researchers found that the South Georgia penguins exhibited the same types of behavior as the ones from the Falkland Islands. On most days, birds in both groups swam no more than 10 kilometers. But occasional long hauls of more than 100 km per day pushed the daily average up to 45 km. Overall, Ursula stayed closest to home, venturing only 661 km from her colony over 78 days; Youngster traveled the farthest, covering 4,783 km over 261 days.

In the first 20 days of the study, 15 of the 18 penguins headed straight for the Antarctic Polar Front. The Falkland Island penguins arrived from the north, and the South Georgia penguins swam up from the south, according to the study.

Half of the penguins were still checking in after 100 days, including eight that were tracked for more than four months. Seven of those birds headed west to the Pacific Ocean and stayed their until their transponders stopped sending signals. The remaining penguin, Youngster, went east into the Indian Ocean, then headed south toward the winter ice, the researchers reported.

At first, the tagged penguins kept their distance from the adult king penguins, something that has been observed in other species. This may give the fledglings a chance to hone their foraging skills without having to compete with more experienced hunters, the researchers wrote. Similar behaviors have been observed in other bird and mammal species in the Southern Ocean, though by the winter months (late June through late September) the younger animals migrate back into waters where their elders look for food.

King penguins usually spend four or five years “exploring the Southern Ocean” before they settle down and start breeding, the researchers noted.

Penguin-Pedia

January 20, 2012

Just in time for Penguin Awareness Day is the arrival at Penguin Place of what may be the definitive all-penguin publication of this generation.  Penguin-Pedia, a 312 page hardcover homage to penguins and everything penguins.  Written by David Salomon, a real estate developer from Dallas, TX, who spent 2 summers traveling the southern hemisphere to photograph all 17 species of penguin.  Mr. Salomon’s goal in writing Penguin-Pedia was to increase penguin interest and awareness by creating the most comprehensive penguin book to date, while also making it enjoyable to look at and easy to read.  It covers all extant species, each with its own chapter broken up into 16 different sections that focus on individual aspects of that species’ life, along with charts of specific information on each species’ diet, calendar, measurements and other numeric data.   To encourage penguin fans to go see penguins for themselves, Mr. Salomon has included a section called “Where to Find a Penguin,” which contains both a list of penguin colonies in the wild and a list of zoo and aquarium exhibits around the world. All photographs in the book are Mr. Salomon’s own, and there are even a dozen trip suggestions to locations such as South Africa , The Galapagos Islands, and The Falkland Islands. Penguin-Pedia.  What the penguin loving world has been looking for.

The Penguin News

January 18, 2012

The Penguin Post has learned that there’s a namesake publication located on a small pair of islands off the coast of Argentina, and it’s called The Penguin News.  The first copies of The Penguin News went on sale 33 years ago. Founder Graham Bound sensed that the British administered islands with a population of about 3000 needed a new voice and in response The Penguin News was created.  It has, save for a few rare silences (such as during the Falkland’s War in 1982), been with us ever since.   To date, seven different editors have been at the helm of the paper with numerous deputy editors, columnists and typists contributing over the years.  Of course over the years with an indigenous penguin population about 100 times the human population there have been plenty of penguin related articles.  The Falklands have become a major tourist destination for penguin lovers,  but if you read the paper you’ll realize there’s lots more going on in this wonderfully fascinating corner of the world.

March With The Penguin In The Falklands

May 22, 2011

This story from the Financial Times via The Penguin Post.