Photo Courtesy of cnbcnews.com
Scientists studying guano (i.e., bird poop) distribution in satellite imagery have stumbled upon a very unusual discovery: a “secret” Adélie penguin kingdom previously unknown to researchers that contains 1.5 million birds, settling on a remove Antarctic archipelago, reported BBC News.
The Danger Islands, so named because of the first European explorers to come across them referred to them as a potential shipwreck hazard, are rarely visited. This makes it a perfect hideout for these penguins, stated mnn.com.
“It’s a classic case of finding something where no-one really looked! The Danger Islands are hard to reach, so people didn’t really try that hard,” explained team-member Dr Tom Hart from Oxford University, to mnn.com.
Scientists discovered these colonies of penguins by examining the satellite used to locate them and compared them to the images going back to 1959. They believe that the colony has been stable over time. They discovered that in contrast, Adelie colonies the west of the Antarctic Peninsula, where the impact of climate change and human activity are much larger, are in decline, explained theguardian.com.
“This was an incredible experience, finding and counting so many penguins,” said Tom Hart, at the University of Oxford and part of the international research team, to theguardian.com.
It’s hoped that this discovery will give more support to creating protected near the Antarctic, such as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) or Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), stated iflscience.com.
“Given the large number of Adélie penguins breeding in the Danger Islands, and the likelihood that the northern Weddell Sea will remains suitable for Adelie penguins longer than the rest of the region, we suggest the Danger Islands should be strongly considered for further protect,” stated Dr. Heather Lynch from Stony Brook University in New York, one of the study’s lead authors, told BBC News.