Scientists have found a massive colony of Adelie Penguins with nearly 1.5 million penguins in Danger Islands in Antarctica. The earlier unknown colony of Adelie penguins was found after researchers closely checked 2014 NASA satellite imagery in the remote regions of Antarctica. Recently, due to decline in Adelie penguin population, scientists were concerned about the species.
The new find in Danger Islands will ease fears of continuously declining population of Adelie penguins over last few decades. Danger Islands are surrounded by thick sea ice and the effects of climate change are less pronounced in this remote region of Antarctica.
While checking satellite imagery, researchers found extensive guano stains and decided to check the region further. With an expedition in the region, the research team confirmed a massive colony of Adelie penguins in Danger Islands. The research team also noticed gentoo penguins in Brash Island and 27 nests of chinstrap penguins at Heroina Island.
Danger Islands provide a safe place for penguin colony. The group of nine small islands stretches to about 35 kilometers in the northernmost tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Using a quadcopter, the research team surveyed the region for counting the number of penguins. Pictures of the island were clicked a speed of one picture per second and they were later combined to make 2D and 3D model of the islands. The images were later analyzed using a neural network software to check for penguin nests.
“The drone lets you fly in a grid over the island, taking pictures once per second. You can then stitch them together into a huge collage that shows the entire landmass in 2D and 3D,” said Professor Hanumant Singh, an engineer at Northeastern University who developed the drone’s imaging and navigation system.
A detailed research paper about the discovery in Danger Islands has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“Until recently, the Danger Islands weren’t known to be an important penguin habitat,” said Professor Heather Lynch, an ecologist at Stony Brook University who worked with the research team on this project.
Research paper co-author Michael Polito of Louisiana State University said, “Not only do the Danger Islands hold the largest population of Adélie penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, they also appear to have not suffered the population declines found along the western side of Antarctic Peninsula that are associated with recent climate change. The population of Adélies on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula is different from what we see on the west side, for example. We want to understand why. Is it linked to the extended sea ice condition over there?”