Penguin Super Colony Spotted From Space – it was their poo that gave them away
Scientists have stumbled across a huge group of previously unknown Adélie penguins. They were seen on the most northerly point of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Numbering more than 1.5 million birds, they were first noticed when great patches of their poo, or guano. The poo showed up in pictures taken from space.
The animals are crammed on to a rocky archipelago called the Danger Islands.
Researchers detailed the discovery in the journal Scientific Reports. They described it as a total surprise.
It’s a classic case of finding something where no-one really looked! The Danger Islands are hard to reach. So people didn’t really try that hard. Team-member Dr Tom Hart from Oxford University, UK, told BBC News.
Scientists used an algorithm to search images from the American Landsat spacecraft for sites of possible penguin activity.
Landsat does not return especially high-resolution pictures. So when the system flagged potential colonies, they had to be followed up with much sharper pictures for confirmation.
But, as the name implies, the Danger Islands are notoriously difficult to reach.
In the austral summer the ocean surrounding the archipelago fills with the kind of thick sea-ice that ships try to avoid.
video BBC Science & Environment
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