The water around the island boiled with penguins. Previously unknown ‘supercolony’ of 1.5m Adélie penguins have been discovered in the remote Danger Islands in Antarctica, easing fears their numbers had been in decline for decades due to climate change. In total, there were 751,527 pairs of penguins living on the islands – more than the rest of the Antarctic Peninsula combined.
The thriving colony inhabits the Danger Islands, located off the Antarctic Peninsula’s northern tip – incredibly remote and surrounded by thick sea ice. This allowed the penguins to remain hidden from the world, until a team of researchers mounted an expedition there to investigate signs of nesting birds.
“Until recently, the Danger Islands weren’t known to be an important penguin habitat,” said Professor Heather Lynch, an ecologist at Stony Brook University who co-led the work.
However, this changed when scientists noted guano stains on Nasa satellite imagery of the islands – a tell-tale sign of a massive penguin colony. To investigate, Professor Lynch led a team to the islands with the intention of counting the birds first-hand.
In total, there were 751,527 pairs of penguins living on the islands – more than the rest of the Antarctic Peninsula combined.
Antarctic Penguin hotspot discovery fuels need for marine reserve: Scientists have discovered a thriving colony of more than 750,000 Adélie penguins, where the impacts of #climatechange have not yet been felt and there is little human activity: https://t.co/4ODWEcaCPo pic.twitter.com/3n0smlmV0X
— Oxford University (@UniofOxford) March 2, 2018
For decades, scientists thought the total number of Adélie penguins had been in steady decline, but the new colony has been protected by its remote location.
“Not only do the Danger Islands hold the largest population of Adélie penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, they also appear to have not suffered the population declines found along the western side of Antarctic Peninsula that are associated with recent Earth change,” said Professor Polito.
“It puts the east Antarctic Peninsula in stark contrast to the Adélie and chinstrap penguin declines that we are seeing on the west Antarctic Peninsula,” said Dr Tom Hart, a penguin researcher at the University of Oxford.
This amazing discovery once again shows that we know nothing about this mysterious Antarctica!
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University of Oxford, Nature, The Independent, BBC
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