Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Guardian, UK - Stretches of excrement-stained ice that are so large they are visible from space have helped scientists to locate 10 newly discovered emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica.

Researchers at the British Antarctic Survey have used satellite images, created to survey the sea ice around Antarctica's coast, to identify emperor penguin colonies using the huge tell-tale reddish-brown patches the birds leave behind. . .

By studying the images, the scientists discovered that guano stains are reliable indicators of the birds' presence. "We can't see actual penguins on the satellite maps because the resolution isn't good enough. But during the breeding season the birds stay at a colony for eight months. The ice gets pretty dirty and it's the guano stains that we can see," said Fretwell.

Emperor penguins spend a considerable part of their lives at sea. During the Antarctic winter when temperatures can drop to -50°C they return to their colonies to breed. . . . They are the least common Antarctic penguin, with an estimated 200,000 breeding pairs.