22 April 2017

Time-lapse cameras peek at penguins' winter behaviour

ANTARCTICA – Not even the most intrepid researcher wants to spend winter in Antarctica, so how can you learn what penguins are doing during those cold, dark months? Simple: Leave behind some cameras.

Time-lapse cameras recorded images of
gentoo penguins at their breeding sites in winter.
Photo credit: T Hart
Year-round studies across the full extent of a species' range are especially important in polar areas, where individuals within a single species may adopt a variety of different migration strategies to get by, and a new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances uses this unique approach to get new insights into gentoo penguin behaviour.

Gentoo penguins are of interest to scientists because they're increasing at the southern end of their range in the Western Antarctic Peninsula, a region where other penguin species are declining.

Little is known about their behaviour during the non-breeding season, so Caitlin Black and Tom Hart of the University of Oxford and Andrea Raya Rey of Argentina's Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y T├ęcnicas used time-lapse cameras to examine patterns in gentoo penguins' presence at breeding sites across their range during the off season.

17 April 2017

Penguin colony repeatedly decimated by volcanic eruptions

ANTARCTICA – One of the largest colonies of gentoo penguins in Antarctica was decimated by volcanic eruptions several times during the last 7,000 years according to a new study.

A gentoo penguin excreting guano
onto the snow near Potter Cove,
King George Island.
Photo credit: Steve Roberts
An international team of researchers, led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), studied ancient penguin guano and found the colony came close to extinction several times due to ash fall from the nearby Deception Island volcano. Their results were published on 11 April in Nature Communications.

Ardley Island, near the Antarctic Peninsula, is currently home to a population of around 5,000 pairs of gentoo penguins. Using new chemical analyses of penguin guano extracted in sediment cores from a lake on the island, the researchers unraveled the history of the penguin colony.