The Secret Lives of Penguins
Most of the time, when you hear about a penguincam, it’s for our pleasure; conservation parks, zoos and aquatic facilities across the world kindly put their penguins on livestream for the viewing delight of visitors from around the world who just can’t get enough of these adorable birds. But one set of Japanese researchers decided to turn penguins from the subjects to the filmmakers, mounting cameras on the heads of penguins to see what life was like from their point of view. What they found was pretty amazing, and yes, of course they released some footage! (Be aware, penguins aren’t the steadiest of camerabirds.)
First, the specifics: the super-light — only one ounce (33 grams) — cameras had depth gauges and accelerometers to allow the research team to determine where the penguins were and measure their rate of movement. The cameras helped them identify what Adelie penguins eat, and, notably, they showed researchers that the penguins actually switch up their hunting style depending on their prey, which illustrates that they distinguish between different types of prey species and have specific hunting strategies.
They can snap up two krill in less than a second, which is pretty amazing, but this isn’t the only find from the footage, which also helped researchers understand how much the penguins need to eat to stay healthy, and where they do the majority of their hunting. Continuous headcam footage provided insight into how the birds live their daily lives, and the wealth of data will be valuable for understanding Adelie populations, contextualizing information from prior studies, and developing effective conservation programs focused on the birds.
The video also shows that the feisty birds are specifically adapted to hunt the animals that live just under sea ice, highlighting the importance of their habitat. They can’t survive just anywhere, and are in fact part of a delicate ecosystem that relies on sea ice for survival. While they’re fast, sleek, and amazing to watch underwater now, as pack ice starts to melt, their numbers could dwindle. That would be bad news for the birds, who need large numbers to stay sufficiently genetically diverse.
But enough talking. You want to see penguins already, right?
I think we can agree that seeing Adelie penguins rocking out in the wild is way better than watching them in a zoo on a livestream, so let’s make sure they always have a place to call home!
Photo credit: Justine Carson