26 February 2016

What makes penguin feathers ice-proof?

SOUTH AMERICA - Humboldt penguins live in places that dip below freezing in the winter, and despite getting wet, their feathers stay sleek and free of ice. Scientists have now figured out what could make that possible. They report in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Physical Chemistry C that the key is in the microstructure of penguins' feathers. Based on their findings, the scientists replicated the architecture in a nanofibre membrane that could be developed into an ice-proof material.

21 February 2016

Abandoned 'supercolony' may hold clues to penguins' response to climate change

More than 600,000 Adelie penguins nest on Cape Adare,
Antarctica. Photo credit: Steve Emslie, UNCW
ANTARCTICA – Researchers recently discovered that Antarctica’s most populous colony of Adélie penguins may have once been nearly twice the size it is today. Clues about why the colony grew so large and what caused the population to decline could help scientists chart the penguins’ response to changes in climate and food resources.

Collaborative research conducted by Louisiana State University (LSU), University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), University of California at Santa Cruz and University of Saskatchewan led to this discovery at Cape Adare, Antarctica.

16 February 2016

Specialist vet focusing on yellow-eyed penguins

Yellow-eyed penguins at Penguin Place.
Photo credit: Pertinent Penguin. Can be used under a
CC BY NC 4.0 International License.
NEW ZEALAND - Otago and Southland’s fragile yellow-eyed penguin population is benefiting from the expertise and experience of wildlife vet Dr Lisa Argilla.

The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust is concerned there may be a repeat of the 2015 season of high injury rates from marine predators, such as barracouta. Recently, five penguins were maimed by suspected barracouta and shark attacks. Penguins injured before they moult have a low chance of survival without early intervention and rehabilitation.

Lisa has been contracted by the Trust for six weeks to ensure injured penguins have the best chance of survival. Lisa has already operated on five injured penguins seriously injured, probably by barracouta.

12 February 2016

Penguin parents' inability to share roles increases their vulnerability to climate change

Crested penguin feeding its chick.
Photo credit: Kyle Morrison
NEW ZEALAND - The fixed division of labour between crested penguin parents increases their chicks' vulnerability to food shortages made ever more common by climate change.

Penguin parents have been unable to adapt their habits to the challenges of increasingly frequent years of limited food supply. As a result, they will become further threatened by extinction, said Kyle Morrison of Massey University and the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, who led a study published in Springer's journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

07 February 2016

Penguin chicks huddle for warmth and protection

ANTARCTICA - Location and environmental conditions may influence when gentoo chicks huddle in cold, wet Antarctic conditions, according to a study published this month in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Caitlin Black from the University of Oxford and colleagues.

Many penguin species huddle together and form creches (aggregations) to conserve heat, gain protection and for other purposes. Although scientists have observed gentoo penguin chicks huddling during the post-guarding period, a period when the parents leave the chicks daily to go find food, these creches have never been studied over a large spatial range in the Antarctic.

The authors of this study looked at the adaptive benefit of creches by using time-lapse cameras to observe gentoo penguin huddling behaviour during the post-guarding period across four study sites at different latitudes.

04 February 2016

NZ's little penguins are recent Aussie invaders

NEW ZEALAND - The little penguin species (popularly known as little blue penguins) found in southern New Zealand is a surprisingly recent invader from Australia, according to a new study led by University of Otago researchers.

Following the recent discovery that little penguins in Otago belong to an Australian species, a team of researchers from New Zealand and the United States set out to determine when the Aussies first arrived.

Adelie penguins, gentoo penguins, food and robots

University of Delaware researchers are working
to better understand foraging competition between
Adelie and Gentoo penguins.
Photo credit: Chris Linder
ANTARCTICA - For hundreds of years, Adélie penguins have been breeding in the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), which has recently become one of the most rapidly warming areas on Earth.

At Palmer Station, a US research base located along the WAP, scientists have been monitoring Adélie penguin population declines for decades. There were 15,000 breeding pairs of Adélie penguins in 1975; today only a few thousand pairs are left.

Now, in a study published in Scientific Reports, University of Delaware oceanographers consider whether Adélie penguins and gentoo penguins - newcomers to the Palmer Station region over the last two decades - may be competing for the same food resources and whether this might exacerbate the Adélie population decline.