Scientists believe that with the discovery of these colonies, they now know the location of all breeding pairs of emperor penguins in the world. This is critical information for conservationists who monitor penguins, which are increasingly at risk due to climate change.
Emperors incubate, mate, lay and hatch their eggs and then raise their young on the sea ice that connects to the coast, known as fast ice. However, this ice has decreased in some parts of Antarctica and has become extremely unstable in recent years, raising serious concerns about the species’ survival.
Emperor penguins are the largest species of penguin, with a height of over 1 m. They live in extreme conditions and gather in separate groups in the middle of winter to successfully mate.
The four new colonies are welcome news, although the total population of about 550,000 individuals has been added by just a few thousand birds.
“It’s great to see that even when emperor penguins are being challenged by changing ice conditions, we’re still finding new colonies. But it’s also clear that these birds will have to adapt, move to new places, as ice conditions continue to change and we’re seeing evidence of that,” said Peter Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey.
At least two of the newly discovered colonies are likely groups of birds that had to leave a nearby location and settle in a more favorable location.
Scientists have been looking for undiscovered colonies using satellites and believe they have now found them all. Because of the size and remoteness of Antarctica, observation from space is the only effective way to detect new colonies.
Colonies are traced by their droppings on the white ice. If enough birds gather, these spots can even be seen from space.
Prepared by CNN.