Study finds way more emperor penguins than previously thought
New satellite data reveals that emperor penguins are far more abundant in Antarctica than previously estimated.
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Areas of Antarctica have experienced dramatic changes in recent years; floating ice shelves have crumbled away and glaciers have sped their march to the sea. The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, with air temperatures rising between 4 and 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 and 2.5 degrees Celsius) in the last 50 years.Skip to next paragraph
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Fretwell said the new technique provides at least one way to correlate any environmental changes with changes to emperor penguin numbers, and can be done year after year.
"This first study gives us the baseline from which to calculate any future trend in the population dynamics. It is much cheaper that Antarctic fieldwork, so it gives us a cost-effective, consistent, comprehensive snapshot of the population each year," Fretwell said.
Emperor penguins, because of their stark black-and-white markings and their large size, stand out against the Antarctic ice. Similar work has proved difficult for smaller penguins.
"Because they are smaller and breed on rock, rather than nice, white snow, it is more difficult, and we are still working on the technique," Fretwell said. Some scientists have attempted similar work on seals, he added. A study to estimate Arctic seal populations from airplanes is under way right now in the Bering Sea.
"I imagine that there will be other species analyzed in a similar way in future," he said.
Reach Andrea Mustain at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AndreaMustain.Follow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter @OAPlanet and on Facebook.
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