31 July 2014

What does the penguin say? Vocal variety in African penguins

An African penguin vocalising.
Photo credit: Favaro et al
ITALY - African penguins are highly social and vocal seabirds; they vocalise to communicate with their parents, mates and colony members. They are even known as jackass penguins because of their donkey-like bray. But, until now, descriptions of their vocal repertoire have been mostly limited to basic descriptions of calls.

A study published on 30 July in PLoS ONE provides the first detailed description of African penguin vocalisations: four different ones for adults and two for chicks and juveniles. The study was carried out by Livio Favaro and colleagues from University of Turin, Italy, on captive penguins at Zoom Torino.

13 July 2014

Strong links between Antarctic climate, phytoplankton, krill and penguins

Adélie penguins on Avian Island
along the West Antarctic Peninsula.
Photo credit: Donna Patterson-Fraser.
ANTARCTICA – A long-term study of the links between climate and marine life along the rapidly warming West Antarctic Peninsula reveals how changes in physical factors such as wind speed and sea-ice cover send ripples up the food web – from single-celled phytoplankton to Adélie penguins.

The study, published on 7 July in Nature Communications, is authored by members of the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research (PAL-LTER) programme, which conducts annual shipboard surveys along the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. PAL-LTER scientists began studying the fast-changing region in 1990.

Adélie penguin population on the rise

Adelie penguins
Photo credit: Michelle LaRue,
University of Minnesota
Adélie penguins have long been considered a key indicator species to monitor and understand the effects of climate change and fishing in the Southern Ocean. A first-ever global census of this penguin species shows that the population is 3.79 million breeding pairs – 53% larger than previously estimated.

By using high-resolution satellite imagery, researchers from Stony Brook University and University of Minnesota have applied a new method that lets them regularly monitor Adélie penguins across their entire breeding range – and by extension the health of the Southern Ocean ecosystem. Their findings were published on 9 July in leading scientific journal The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

05 July 2014

Emperor penguin in peril says study

Stephanie Jenouvrier and emperor
penguin chick.
Photo credit: Stephanie Jenouvrier
ANTARCTICA - An international team of scientists studying emperor penguin populations across Antarctica has found that the iconic birds are in danger of dramatic declines by the end of the century due to climate change. Their study, published recently in Nature Climate Change, found the emperor penguin is “fully deserving of endangered status due to climate change”.

The emperor penguin is currently under consideration for inclusion under the US Endangered Species Act. Criteria to classify species by their extinction risk are based on the global population dynamics.