Penguin 'mega-colonies' discovery strengthens calls for Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary

Penguin 'mega-colonies' discovery strengthens calls for Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary

Penguin 'mega-colonies' discovery strengthens calls for Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary

According to sources, the small islands forming the so-called Danger Islands territory weren't thought to harbor colonies of penguins and had gone unstudied by scientists. Co-author Heather Lynch of Stony Brook University said.

The team published its findings online Friday in the Scientific Reports journal.

A massive collective of penguins forming a super colony have been discovered in a part of Antarctica that hasn't been impacted by climate change. Should the Adelie penguins lose their Danger Island real estate, there's not much else around for them to go to.

So a team of researchers headed out on another expedition to the islands in 2015. "One of the ways in which this is good news is that other studies have shown this area (the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula) is likely to remain more stable under climate change than the western Antarctic Peninsula", said Lynch.

Polito and his team visited the islands, and had the luck of visiting it at a time when the sea ice levels were low and the penguins were nesting there and weren't traveling.

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They counted penguins in the drone imagery using neural network software developed by Hanumant Singh at Northeastern University in Boston.

Even in the summer, the nearby ocean is filled with thick sea ice. "Governments need to seize the historic opportunity before them to put penguins like these ones on the Danger Islands out of harm's way". There is no motivation behind why that couldn't occur to those on the east side also, and scientists will watch those penguins intently in the coming years. The never-before-seen "supercolony" of penguins is believed to be home to over 1,500,000 Adélie penguins. The worldwide Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources says it will consider creating the sanctuary when it meets in Australia in October.

As a result, the researchers were able to find 751,527 mating pairs of penguins; over 1.5 million individual birds in total. "We want to understand why", said Stephanie Jenouvrier, a seabird ecologist at WHOI and coauthor of the study, in the release. "We all knew there would be a lot penguins there, but I think none of us knew there would be this many".

"But it also reinforces the urgency to protect the waters off the coast of Antarctica to safeguard Adélie penguins from the dual threats of overfishing and climate change". Polito said the publication of their study comes at just the right time to assist in that effort, as an global body that oversees Antarctica's wildlife resources is expected to review new refuge proposals in October.

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