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Emperor penguin poo seen from space, scientists excited


There has been an “exciting discovery” – penguin poo has been spotted from space.


Scientists have been able to identify a new 500-strong colony of emperor penguins in West Antarctica from space just by looking at their, uh, feces — otherwise known as penguin guano.

Emperor penguins are the largest of the 18 species of penguins and have been known to reach a height of 1.2 metres.

They live in climates that can reach -60C, especially in remote and inhospitable places.

That’s why this discovery is such a big deal – scientists usually struggle to find them.


Penguins also breed on sea ice, which means they may be particularly affected by climate change and shrinking ice cover.

british antarctic survey This new assemblage of birds was found by spotting their faeces (in contrast to the beautiful white surroundings that make up most of the continent) on satellite images from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission.

By comparing images from the world’s most advanced Earth observation satellite (MAXAR WorldView3), they were able to prove that the penguins were present.


The technology is part of the Wildlife from Space project, which is also used to track and monitor walruses, whales, seals and albatrosses.

The news, declared an “exciting discovery” by scientist Dr Peter Fretwell, was announced on Penguin Awareness Day and means there are now 66 colonies known to be breeding off the coast of Antarctica.

Fretwell said: “New satellite images of Antarctica’s coastline have enabled us to find many new colonies.”


Unfortunately, in this climate emergency, it hasn’t been all positive news.

He added: “Like many of the recently discovered sites, this colony is small and in an area severely affected by recent sea ice loss.”

Rising global temperatures mean ice is melting in both the Arctic and Antarctica, raising sea levels and threatening biodiversity all over the world – but especially for animals at the North and South Poles.

For context, the British Antarctic Survey has spent the past 15 years trying to track down new colonies by looking at satellite images of penguin poo. In fact, this is how half of the known colonies have been discovered.

Unfortunately, according to scientists, about 80% of penguin colonies are expected to be “semi-extinct” by the end of the century. This means they may be doomed to extinction, even if there are individuals of the species still alive.

But, if we work to reduce climate change to no more than 2C of warming, 68% seabirds And land animals would benefit – meaning there’s still a chance for penguins to turn it around.

(tags to translate) animals


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