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


Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

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.

Waheeda Smith
Waheeda E5 years ago

Finally some wonderful news!! :)

Nicole Weber
Nicole W5 years ago

Great news, thank you.

Ruth S.
Ruth C5 years ago

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!!

Suzanne Osborne
Suzanne Osborne5 years ago

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!

Anita Wischhusen
Anita Wisch5 years ago

Yahooooooooo! Let's hear it for the animals!

eusebio vestias
Eusebio vestias5 years ago

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

David V.
David V5 years ago

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.

Ceejay Robb
CJ Robb5 years ago

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.......)

terri armao
terri armao5 years ago

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.