Penguins are iconic birds for the Antarctic. However, more than half of all species have always lived outside of the Antarctic boundaries for millions of years. Thus, fossils of these special birds are found in many un-penguin-like places like Australia, Chile or New Zealand. Here, scientists have unearthed another previously unknown early penguin species, Kumimanu, Maori for “monster bird”.
Since 2011, the largest eradication program against invasive species takes place on the Subantarctic island of South Georgia. Thousands of square kilometers had been baited in an attempt to get rid of rats and mice, which had caused massive havoc among the bird population. Now, the program steps into its final phase with surveying the island for traces of any remaining rodents. With any luck, the island soon will be declared rodent-free.
Life in Antarctica consists of more than penguins and seals. A rich microbial community exists on the ice, the fresh water ponds and in the soil. However, it was unclear how these organisms thrive in their habitat. Now, a team of scientists led by the University of New South Wales Sydney has discovered that microbes have a previously unknown ability to scavenge trace gases from the air to stay alive in these extreme conditions.
Seventy years ago on November 28, the maiden expedition of Australia’s Antarctic Program set sail from Western Australia, establishing the first of the nation’s research stations in the polar region. Nowadays, Australia is considered a key player in Antarctic affairs and holds the largest segment of Antarctica.
The Belgian Antarctic station Princess Elisabeth Antarctica is one of the latest and most advanced stations. During summer season up to 16 researchers can be housed at the station, which is situated in Queen Maud Land, East Antarctica. The station is a summer station and thus, closed for the winter and maintained automatically from Belgium thanks to a sophisticated control system. Now, the station has been manned and reopened for the season.
Albatrosses are one of the iconic bird groups in the Antarctic. Almost no one can evade the fascination of these elegant birds when watching them sailing in the winds over the Southern Ocean. However, their numbers have made a significant drop over the last 35 years, especially those breeding on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, according to a recent study published now in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A UK team of researchers has produced high-resolution maps of the bed beneath a major glacier in West Antarctica, which will help them predict future sea-level rise from this region. Radar surveys of the land beneath Pine Island Glacier have revealed a diverse landscape under the ice with some surprises. The results are published in the journal Nature Communications.
Generating electricity in Antarctica is a tricky business. Most Antarctic stations use diesel generators and a few wind turbines, which is more sustainable. However, those wind turbines have to withstand harsh conditions and the strain on the material seems very big. At Australian Mawson station, part of a wind turbine collapsed on the evening of November 7. Luckily, no one was injured in the incident.
Birds use vocalizations to attract mates, defend territories, and recognize fellow members of their species. But while we know a lot about how variations in vocalizations play out between populations of songbirds, it's far less clear how this variation affects birds such as penguins in which calls are inherited. A new study examines differences in the calls of Little Penguins from four colonies in Australia and finds that disparities in habitat, rather than geographic isolation or other factors, seem to be the key driver of variation in the sounds these birds use to communicate.
Atmospheric scientists will use ships, aircraft and satellites to study super-cooled Southern Ocean clouds this summer. The project involving Australian and United States researchers will gather data on super-cooled cloud formations, which are clouds that remain as liquid water well below freezing.