3.6 Million More Penguins Live in Antarctica Than Thought
The number of Adélie penguins living in East Antarctica may be double what scientists previously thought.
(From National Geographic / By Sarah Gibbens)– New data collected by researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia estimates the population number at nearly six million—almost four million higher than previous estimates.
Until this most recent study, scientists drew their estimates by counting breeding pairs. However, this means previous counts missed non-breeding penguins.
“Non-breeding birds are harder to count because they are out foraging at sea, rather than nesting in colonies on land,” Louise Emmerson, a seabird ecologist with the Australian Antarctic Division, says in a press release.
Using a combination of aerial and ground surveys, as well as automated camera images, researchers were able to collect more accurate population counts over several breeding seasons and revise their estimated totals.
Higher numbers are a cause for celebration and concern. Adélie penguin colonies span the entire Antarctic continent, and the birds stay mostly on land during the Antarctic summer, between October and February, to nest and breed. During this time, adults may have to walk up to 30 miles to reach the sea and hunt for fish and krill.
Given the new population count, this behavior suggests that more penguins may be interacting with people than previously thought.
Adélie penguins prefer to nest in rocky areas that are free of ice, and those are the same areas where researchers prefer to set up camp so they have easier access to resupply ships, says seabird ecologist and lead study author Colin Southwell.
Read the full article here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/adelie-penguin-population-antarctica/