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New research reveals that emperor penguins are more willing to relocate
Date:6/20/2014

d it's been studied for more than 60 years. Researchers observe the colony every year and look, in particular, for birds that have been banded by researchers to return to the colony. In recent decades researchers have been concerned about how receding sea ice may affect the emperor penguins that breed on it.

Over five years in the late 1970s, the Southern Ocean warmed and at the same time the penguin colony at Pointe Gologie, declined by half (6,000 breeding pairs to 3,000 breeding pairs). The decline was thought to be due to decreased survival rates. In other words, researchers thought that the warming temperatures were negatively impacting the survival of the species.

High-resolution satellite imagery has changed all that because now researchers can see the entire coastline and all the sea ice. Because emperor penguins are the only species out on the sea ice, they can look at images and identify their presence through the telltale signtheir guano stain. Before satellite images, researchers thought Pointe Gologie was isolated and there was nowhere else for the penguins to go. The satellite images show that Pointe Gologie is not isolated at all. Plenty of colonies are within easy travel distance for an emperor penguin.

"It's possible that birds have moved away from Pointe Gologie to these other spots and that means that maybe those banded birds didn't die," LaRue said. "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."


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Contact: Rhonda Zurn
rzurn@umn.edu
612-626-7959
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert  

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