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Penguin Poop, seen from space, tells our climate history

Satellites see many things around the world: hurricanes brewing in the Caribbean, tropical forests that burn in the Amazon, even North Korean soldiers who build missile throwers. But some researchers have found a new way to use satellites to find out which penguins are eating by capturing pictures of the animal's hills over Antarctica. A group of scientists studying Adelie penguins and climate change have found that the color of penguin solutions indicates whether the animals ate shrimp-like krill (reddish orange) or silverfish (blue). The difference is interesting because the penguin's diet acts as an indicator of the marine ecosystem's response to climate change. Separate research, for example, begins to show that penguins, which are forced to rely on Krill as the main source of food, do not grow as much as those who have fish in their diet. Penguins guano deposits build over time on the rocky outcroppings where the birds gather, making them colorful landmarks. The researchers sampled the penguin colonies, found their spectral wavelength, and then matched this color to images taken from the landbound Landsat-7 satellite. "There is a clear regional difference, Western Krill, East Fish," said Casey Youngflesh, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Connecticut, who presented his findings last week at the US Geophysical Union Annual Meeting in Washington. This is the first time scientists have been able to trace food from space and researchers say it's a new tool to watch how some seabirds and penguins populate other parts of the world.…

Satellites see many things around the world: hurricanes brewing in the Caribbean, tropical forests that burn in the Amazon, even North Korean soldiers who build missile throwers. But some researchers have found a new way to use satellites to find out which penguins are eating by capturing pictures of the animal’s hills over Antarctica.

A group of scientists studying Adelie penguins and climate change have found that the color of penguin solutions indicates whether the animals ate shrimp-like krill (reddish orange) or silverfish (blue). The difference is interesting because the penguin’s diet acts as an indicator of the marine ecosystem’s response to climate change. Separate research, for example, begins to show that penguins, which are forced to rely on Krill as the main source of food, do not grow as much as those who have fish in their diet.

Penguins guano deposits build over time on the rocky outcroppings where the birds gather, making them colorful landmarks. The researchers sampled the penguin colonies, found their spectral wavelength, and then matched this color to images taken from the landbound Landsat-7 satellite.

“There is a clear regional difference, Western Krill, East Fish,” said Casey Youngflesh, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Connecticut, who presented his findings last week at the US Geophysical Union Annual Meeting in Washington. This is the first time scientists have been able to trace food from space and researchers say it’s a new tool to watch how some seabirds and penguins populate other parts of the world.

Knowing what and how much five million breeding pairs of Adelie penguins are eating is important because it tells scientists how the food chain base is doing. The crowd of little krill has crashed on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, the 800-mile-long thumbs up to the tip of South America. Rapid warming, changing climatic conditions and a huge increase in fishing on an industrial scale have taken a toll on these small crustaceans.

Krill is harvested commercially for use in pet food and nutritional supplements, but for many penguins it is due to their diet. As krill has become more scarce, also the Western Antarctic penguins like to eat them. “The diet can tell us how the food web changes over time,” says Youngflesh. “It would take a lot of time and a lot of money to visit all of these sites. Climate change is extremely complicated and we need data on big scales.”

Youngflesh says he hopes that the color-coded poop maps can be used to track the penguin populations in the future, as well as other seabirds all over the world. It’s because seabirds gather in the same places as penguins and eat the same things. Of course, this type of remote sensing can not tell scientists how the diet’s diets compare each other over time. So a reviewer dug through the guano himself to seek insight into the penguin’s history.

“There are unanswered questions about when they arrived, how have their dietary habits changed over time,” says Michael Polito, Assistant Professor of Oceanography and Coastal Science at Louisiana State University. “It’s questions that satellites can not answer, and it was my job to dig it up.”

Michael Polito / Louisiana State University

Polito excavated piles of guano, feathers, bones and eggshells in the Faroe Islands, a great penguin colony on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, which has been mostly free of human visitors. When he reached the bottom of the pile he took the material back to his lab and applied radio carbon techniques to calculate the first penguin’s settler. He found that the penguins have lived on Danger Island for almost 3000 years. Because Adelie penguins need access to ice-free ground, open water and ample food supply to feed their baby chickens, the presence or absence of a penguin colony is a sign of climate conditions, then Polito says. Polito’s new study diminishes the time of arrival of the penguin there with 2 200 years for that region and confirms other data taken from ice cores and sediments about the history of the region’s climate.

“This ability to appreciate penguin diets from space will be a real game exchange for science in Antarctica,” said Polito. “It really takes a lot of time and effort to figure out which penguins are eating with traditional methods so that you can evaluate dieting around the entire Antarctica continent from space is a pretty amazing leap forward. “

The combination of digging through poop and analyzing images from satellites provides researchers with a better hand about possible problem flaws for the Adelie penguin, like the cousins ​​in chinstrap, Gentoo and Emperor penguins The Laboratory of Heather Lynch, Professor of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University, compiles a nypty continental map of penguin colonies from the four species, using the volunteers of the volunteers to count them one by one. Lynch’s group is also beginning to look back on previous satellite images taken from the 1980s until now to see if they can get up take the same penguin-poop-diet connection.


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