Scientists Discover New Penguin Colony in Antarctica by Spotting Poop from Space

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Videos by Rare

Videos by Rare

Emperor penguins never cease to amaze. A new colony of about 500 of them was discovered after satellite images spotted a couple massive piles of poop. The penguin poop, aka guano, was seen on Verleger Point in the Southwestern coastal region of Antarctica.

British Antarctic Survey Scientists Call the Poop Discovery “Exciting”

This emperor penguin colony is just one of 66 known to exist along the Antarctic coastline. 33 of those colonies have been discovered thanks to satellite imaging. Because emperor penguin poop is brown, it contrasts against the white ice and snow-covered Antarctic terrain.

“This is an exciting discovery,” said British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientist Dr. Peter Fretwell. “The new satellite images of Antarctica’s coastline have enabled us to find many new colonies. And whilst this is good news, like many of the recently discovered sites, this colony is small and in a region badly affected by recent sea ice loss.”

Fretwell is a wildlife expert who specializes in studying satellite imagery. He and other BAS scientists have been utilizing the imaging technique for the past 15 years. It’s proven to be extraordinarily helpful because emperor penguins tend to live in nearly inhospitably cold climates (down to -76 degrees Fahrenheit). So, looking for brown penguin poop via satellite images makes sense.

As guardians of the planet, it’s also important to locate emperor penguins because they are on the verge of extinction. Climate change has been melting sea ice, which they need to breed. The BAS press release said that 80% of emperor penguin colonies are expected to be “quasi-extinct” by the end of this century.

Emperor Penguin Colonies and Breeding Styles Are Awe-Inspiring

Emperor penguins are some of the most communal animal species on the planet. They are known for their social networks and breeding styles, which are particularly fascinating. After the females hatch their eggs, they take off to go find food straightaway. Meanwhile, hundreds of male emperor penguins will remain at home base (which is usually some form of ice) and incubate their mates’ eggs in their brood pouches. They huddle together in big masses, specifically taking turns on the outside of the group to weather the freezing winds.

The whole process usually takes about 65 days, at which point the females are expected to return with their bellies full of fish. Then the momma penguins take over the last stages of incubation and regurgitate some of the fish in their bellies to feed their young. Meanwhile, the male emperor penguins are now emaciated and go out to sea to fatten themselves up.

When you consider how emperor penguins operate, it’s not surprising that their poop would pile up and be visible from space!

Read More: Penguins Ditch the Aquarium for ‘Friends’ Set

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