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Spaced-Based Census Doubles Emperor Penguin Numbers

Spaced-Based Census Doubles Emperor Penguin Numbers

 

Written by Stephen Messenger

Given the inhospitable vastness of Antarctica, where temperatures regularly dip below -50c, counting the continent’s most iconic species had long been a challenge, but not anymore. Thanks to a little help from space, researchers undertaking a census of Emperor penguins at the South Pole now say they have a better idea of how many of the flightless, tuxedoed birds live there — and it’s nearly twice as many as previous thought.

Using the latest in satellite imaging technology, a international team of scientists scoured Antarctica’s frozen landscape for signs of Emperor penguin colonies. All told, they counted 44 separate penguin hangouts, including seven that were as yet undiscovered.

According to the BBC, biologists used these aerial surveys to make a more accurate guess as to the number of penguins present in each colony, all without having to brave the region’s freezing temperatures, and what they found was quite remarkable. Previously, there were believed to be as few as 270 thousand Emperor penguins in Antarctica — now researchers say that number as more than doubled, to an estimated 595 thousand.

Co-author Michelle LaRue from the University of Minnesota said the monitoring method provided “an enormous step forward in Antarctic ecology”.

“We can conduct research safely and efficiently with little environmental impact,” she explained. “The implications for this study are far-reaching. We now have a cost-effective way to apply our methods to other poorly understood species in the Antarctic.”

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.

 

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Photo from sandwichgirl via flickr

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17 comments

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4:00AM PDT on May 23, 2012

I did NOT sign the petition to stop subsidizing BIG polluters, because I believe it is NOT POLITICALLY FEASIBLE. Trying to money away from OWNING CLASS TOO BIG TO FAIL CORPORATIONS WHO ARE CONVINCED THEY ALREADY OWN THAT MONEY is too much like trying to take a nice big bunch of bananas away from a TROOP of 800 pound gorillas. It is a risk NOT WORTH TAKING. I would go so far as to demand that they use the subsidy money to work on turning themselves into sustainable energy corporations. I have no desire to try to put them out of business ONLY to persuade them to make their profits by means that cause much less collateral damage.

3:37PM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

Finally some wonderful news!! :)

12:33PM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Great news, thank you.

11:02AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Its both good and bad, good because there are a lot of them that means that they are have success in raising babies with less of them dying before they reach adulthood, but bad because now anyone can think of an excuse to start killing them!!

10:44AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Smasshing - now some ned can come along and think of an excuse to slaughter half of them and we'll be back to where we thought they were in the first place!

8:10AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Yahooooooooo! Let's hear it for the animals!

6:47AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Eu gosto de ver esses animais os pinguins imperadores mas gostava de os ver ao vivo são criaturas lindas é uma boa noticia obrigado pela boa noticia no que respeita aos pinguins

6:12AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Now that they have an accurate way to measure the population they can tell if the population is increasing or decreasing....With all the ice melting, they need to keep tabs on their population.

6:10AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Awww, strut your stuff guys! Looking sooo handsome, elegant and regal (well, they ARE Emperors!) in your little tuxedos! Hope they find many, many more Happy Feet! (Humming Boogie Wonderland.......)

5:39AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

so just to be clear. there are not more penguins, there are more then was thought. the actual population could very well be in decline. now that the population count is accurate it will be easier to track how the population is doing overall.

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