Please select your home edition
Edition
Guy Nowell - Yellow 728

Satellite images reveals emperor penguins are more willing to relocate

by British Antarctic Survey on 29 Jun 2014
New research using satellite images reveals that emperor penguins are more willing to relocate than previously thought. Michelle LaRue, Unversity of Minnesota
A new study led by the University of Minnesota offers new insights on the long-term future of emperor penguins by showing that the penguins may be behaving in ways that allow them to adapt to their changing environment better than we expected.

Researchers have long thought that emperor penguins were philopatric, which means they would return to the same location to nest each year. The new study used satellite images to show that penguins may not be faithful to previous nesting locations. Researchers found six instances in just three years in which emperor penguins did not return to the same location to breed. They also report on one newly discovered colony on the Antarctic Peninsula that may represent the relocation of penguins.

University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering researcher and the study’s lead author Michelle LaRue shared her findings at the Ideacity conference in Toronto on June 20. The study will also be published in an upcoming issue of Ecography, a professional journal publishing research in spatial ecology, macroecology and biogeography.

'Our research showing that colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviors we thought we understood about emperor penguins,' said LaRue. 'If we assume that these birds come back to the same locations every year, without fail, these new colonies we see on satellite images wouldn’t make any sense. These birds didn’t just appear out of thin air— they had to have come from somewhere else. This suggests that emperor penguins move among colonies. And that means we need to revisit how we interpret population changes and the causes of those changes.'

Emperor penguins are a well-studied species and have become more popular following films like 'Happy Feet' and the documentary 'March of the Penguins.'

The 'March of the Penguins' colony is called Pointe Géologie and it’s been studied for more than 60 years. Researchers observe the colony every year and look, in particular, for birds that have been banded by researchers to return to the colony. In recent decades researchers have been concerned about how receding sea ice may affect the Emperor penguins that breed on it.


Over five years in the late 1970s, the Southern Ocean warmed and at the same time the penguin colony at Pointe Géologie, declined by half (6,000 breeding pairs to 3,000 breeding pairs). The decline was thought to be due to decreased survival rates. In other words, researchers thought that the warming temperatures were negatively impacting the survival of the species.

High-resolution satellite imagery has changed all that because now researchers can see the entire coastline and all the sea ice. Because emperor penguins are the only species out on the sea ice, they can look at images and identify their presence through the telltale sign—their guano stain. Before satellite images, researchers thought Pointe Géologie was isolated and there was nowhere else for the penguins to go. The satellite images show that Pointe Géologie is not isolated at all. Plenty of colonies that are within easy travel distance for an emperor penguin.
Dr Peter Fretwell, from the British Antarctic Survey, contributed to the study:

'Previous research led us to believe that Emperor Penguins always returned to the same locations to breed, a trait that leaves them susceptible to changing sea-ice conditions. This new research, using satellite imagery, shows that Emperors have the ability to change their breeding location as the conditions dictate, which means that they are more resilient to climate change than we previously thought.'

Other researchers involved in the study include Gerald Kooyman, of the University of California, San Diego and Heather J. Lynch of Stony Brook University.






Emperor penguin with chicks on sea ice. © Pete Bucktrout, British Antarctic Survey
Emperor penguin with chicks on sea ice. © Pete Bucktrout, British Antarctic Survey
BAS Website
Bakewell-White Yacht DesignAbell Point Marina 660x82 MoorHenri Lloyd 50 Years

Related Articles

New Zealand Maritime radio channels set to change on 1 October
Before you head out on the water next summer there are some important maritime radio changes you need to know about. Before you head out on the water next summer there are some important maritime radio changes you need to know about. On 1 October 2016, New Zealand is changing some maritime VHF repeater channels, and NowCasting weather services, to make space for new international ship tracking and data services, and to make sure our VHF radio services are compatible with the rest of the world.
Posted on 20 Sep
Prototype aims to take on the Garbage Patch
A prototype aimed at achieving 'the largest clean-up in history' is deployed in the North Sea. As scientists look to find a way to rid the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch of thousands of tonnes of waste plastic, a prototype aimed at achieving 'the largest clean-up in history' is deployed in the North Sea.
Posted on 7 Jul
Marine Sustainability Conference with an expanded environmental theme
The event will not only revisit the dismantling and responsible recycling of leisure craft, but also engage in debate The event will not only revisit the dismantling and responsible recycling of leisure craft, but also engage in debate about whether the Boating Industry can effectively embrace the ‘Circular Economy’ and how it can interact with the environmental desirability of ocean and waterway conservation.
Posted on 27 May
Puteri Harbour Marina receives Level 3 Clean Marina Accreditation
The International Clean Marina Program is a voluntary accreditation program for marinas, yacht clubs, and boat clubs. Puteri Harbour is located at Iskandar Puteri, the narrow-most point along The Straits of Johor separating Singapore from the Asia continent. The prestigious waterfront development offers three marinas - public, mega yacht and a private marina - designed to cater to the sailing community.
Posted on 15 Apr
11th Hour Racing requests proposals to improve ocean health
Through the platform of sailing, 11th Hour Racing aims to increase our understanding of current threats to our oceans. Through the platform of sailing, 11th Hour Racing aims to increase our understanding of current threats to our oceans, find solutions to the challenges that impact marine resources, and promote stewardship of the seas.
Posted on 4 Apr
Seabin and Poralu Marine announce partnership + Video
Seabin Pty Ltd., through its branch The Seabin Project, aims to fight against water pollution Created by two Australians Andrew Turton, ocean lover, sailor, boat builder and Pete Ceglinski, industrial designer and surfer, Seabin Pty Ltd., through its branch The Seabin Project, aims to fight against water pollution
Posted on 20 Mar
Reef sharks take small bites
Coral reef sharks eat prey that are smaller than a cheeseburger Sharks have a reputation for having voracious appetites, but a new study shows that most coral reef sharks eat prey that are smaller than a cheeseburger
Posted on 20 Mar
Suburbs to Sea - Stopping litter at the source
Over sixty people gathered at Point Cook Community Centre for a special ‘Movies and Muffins’ night to learn about litter Over sixty people gathered at Point Cook Community Centre recently for a special ‘Movies and Muffins’ night to learn about litter and its impact on the environment as part of Wyndham City’s Green Living Series.
Posted on 18 Mar
Cyclone Winston Relief Fund – Help the people of Fiji
Sea Mercy is sending volunteer fleet of small and large vessels, loaded with shelter, food and medical supplies to Fiji. Sea Mercy is once again sending our volunteer fleet of small and large vessels, loaded with shelter, food, water and medical supplies and teams to Fiji.
Posted on 27 Feb
Land Rover BAR partners with Seabin to clean the oceans + Video
Recent research shows that between 5m and 12m tonnes of plastic find their way into the ocean every year. Recent research shows that between 5m and 12m tonnes of plastic find their way into the ocean every year. This is adding rapidly to the five trillion pieces - weighing around 270,000 tonnes - that are calculated to already be polluting the world's seas and oceans. Some estimates show that by 2050 the weight of plastic is likely to outweigh that of fish.
Posted on 23 Feb