Some Adélies like it colder than others

Adélie penguins breed along the Antarctic coastline from early spring onwards. Their colonies are up to several hundred thousands of breeding pairs and are the largest gatherings of penguins on the Antarctic continent. Credit: Michael Wenger

Adélie penguins are the southernmost breeding penguin species and iconic to Antarctica. Numerous colonies are found along the Antarctic coast and on nearby islands. Until now, they were thought to come to their breeding places only in summer. Now, remote sensing cameras set up at various colonies have captured Adélies returning to their breeding sites during winter time. A comparison between colonies in West and East Antarctica, however, clearly showed that Western Adélies are the ones returning in winter while Eastern Adélies stay away until spring time.

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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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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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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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Habitat influences penguin calls

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.

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Penguins like jelly: Gelatineous animals as part of penguin diet

Footage from penguin-mounted mini video recorders shows four species of penguin eating jellyfish and other gelatinous animals of the open ocean, a food source penguins were not previously believed to partake of, scientists report this month in the Ecological Society of America's peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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Gentoo penguins can talk under water

Penguins are sociable. During breeding, these birds gather in large colonies on the coasts of Subantarctic islands and on the main land. Their multi-vocal calls are usually loud and heard over the entire colony. But what is their behavior while at sea foraging? To solve this mystery, Korean biologists applied video cameras on Gentoos to film and eavesdrop on the animals while at sea. The results were stunning: Even while swimming and diving, Gentoos communicate amongst each other using short calls. However, the exact nature of these calls is yet to be determined.

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AWI finds reasons for fluctuating krill population

It is only six centimetres long, but it plays a major role in the Antarctic ecosystem: the small crustacean Euphausia superba (Antarctic krill). It's one of the world's most abundant species and the central diet of a number of animals in the Southern Ocean. For a long time, scientists have been puzzled why the size of krill stocks fluctuates so widely. In a new study headed by Prof. Bernd Blasius and Prof. Bettina Meyer, a group of scientists from the University of Oldenburg's Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) and the Bremerhaven-based Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have shown that the competition for food within the population is responsible for the variability.

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Whale cams reveal ocean giant's feeding habits

Electronic tags with ‘whale cams’ deployed on humpback whales in Antarctica have revealed the secret feeding habits of the ocean giants. The small camera tags were placed on the backs of humpback whales by Australian and United States scientists working off the Antarctic Peninsula, in the Gerlache Strait.

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