Penguin feathers and eggshells tell Antarctic climate history

Both penguin feathers and eggshells offer insights into what penguins have eaten and how their environments are changing. (Credit: Kelton McMahon)

Penguins preserve records of Antarctic environmental change. The birds’ feathers and eggshells contain the chemical fingerprints of variations in diet, food web structure and even climate, researchers reported recently at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting.

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Marine habitat maps important for Antarctica’s biodiversity

Remotely-sensed data collected over decades of collaborative research in Antarctic can be compiled to help create maps of the physical environment on the seabed around South Georgia. (Credit: British Antarctic Survey)

The UK government is committed to the long-term protection of over four million square kilometres of the world oceans that fall within the UK’s Overseas Territories. Prioritising which parts of the ocean are most important to protect depends on scientific information to help decide upon the size and location of these marine protected areas (MPAs). However, many of the UK Overseas territories such as the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia are very remote and have limited scientific data. Very often habitat maps made using large-scale physical environmental data (such as depth, submarine terrain and water temperature) are used to help predict patterns in marine biodiversity where biological records are either poor or lacking.

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Ozone at lower latitudes is not recovering, despite Antarctic ozone hole healing

The atmosphere is only a thin film when you look at earth from outer space. The protecting ozone layer is recovering at the poles, but unexpected decreases in parts of the atmosphere may be preventing recovery at lower latitudes. (Credit: NASA)

Global ozone has been declining since the 1970s due to human-made chemicals. Since these were banned, parts of the ozone layer have been recovering, particularly at the poles. However, new research, recently published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, showed that the bottom part of the ozone layer at populated, lower latitudes is not recovering. The exact cause is currently unknown.

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King Penguins need to move due to climate change

King Penguins are the second largest penguin species and are found on the subantarctic islands in the Southern Ocean. They are more slender and lighter than their relatives, the emperor Penguins. Credit: Michael Wenger

More than 70 percent of the global King penguin population, currently forming colonies in Crozet, Kerguelen and Marion sub-Antarctic islands, may be nothing more than a memory in a matter of decades, as global warming will soon force the birds to move south, or disappear. This is the conclusion of a study published in the current issue of the prestigious journal Nature Climate Change and performed by an international team of researchers from France, Monaco, Italy, Norway, South Africa, Austria and US.

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Australian citizenship awarded in Antarctica

The Australian station Davis is situated in East Antarctica directly on the coast of the Vestfold Hills, an ice-free area. It consists of 29 buildings, many of which are not in use anymore but counted to the Commonwealth Heritage list. Credit: AAD, Matt Low

Antarctica has no owner and no country can lay any claims on the continent. However, Antarctic bases are under the jurisdiction of the appropriate country making these remote places always a bit like the homeland. Recently, penguins living near the Australian Antarctic station Davis became witness of an unusual ceremony: The Australian Citizenship Ceremony.

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Fossilized marine predator found in Antarctica

The Argentine station Marambio is situated at the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula and is the largest of the 13 Argentine stations. It has an airfield on which planes can land by using their normal landing gear.

To find fossilized remains of dinosaurs in Antarctica is quiet difficult not only due to the conditions. Because of the glaciation that had started 40 million years ago, most of any fossils have been washed into the ocean. Ironically, also remains of marine dinosaurs also found their way back into their original habitat. However, near the Argentine station Marambio on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, scientists now found the fossil of a huge plesiosaur.

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Southern right whales receive a health check around South Georgia

Southern right whales measure around 15 – 18 m and weight between 45 – 80 tons. They have long migration routes between the Antarctic and the warm coastal waters of Argentina. Credit: Michael Wenger

Southern right whales long had suffered from unchecked exploitation in the early days of industrial whaling. Especially around the subantarctic island of South Georgia, whalers quickly had decimated the slow, fat animals. Since the whaling ban in the 70ies, however, the species made a comeback. Now, an international team of researchers led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), travels to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia this month (January) to carry out the first scientific whale survey and to check the status of this whale species.

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Greenhouse for research purpose built in Antarctica

The parts of the greenhouse were sent by an icebreaker close to the German research station Neumayer III and there unloaded. Credit: DLR

With the arrival and unloading of the EDEN ISS greenhouse at the edge of the Antarctic ice shelf, the construction process has begun. In the coming weeks, a team from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will set up the greenhouse, designed for extreme environments, just 400 metres from the German Neumayer Station III in the Antarctic. It will be run by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), which is working on the EDEN ISS project together with DLR.

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Giant penguin fossil found in New Zealand

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”.

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Last round for South Georgia’s rat eradication program

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.

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