Remember these sweets?
It was an “exciting discovery” – penguin poop viewed from space.
Scientists were able to identify a new 500-strong colony of emperor penguins from space in West Antarctica by looking at their feces, also known as penguin guano.
Emperor penguins are the largest of the 18 penguin species and are known to reach 1.2 meters in height.
They live in climates up to -60 degrees, especially in remote and hard-to-reach places.
That’s why this discovery is so important – scientists often struggle to find them.
Penguins also breed on sea ice, meaning they can be particularly affected by the sea. climate change and reduction of ice cover.
The British Antarctic Survey found this new bird community by detecting poop patches (a stark contrast to the beautiful white surroundings that make up most of the continent) in satellite images from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission.
By comparing the images with the world’s most advanced Earth observation satellite (MAXAR WorldView3), they were able to spot the evidence proving the penguin’s existence.
This technique is part of the Wildlife from Space project, which is also used to track and monitor walruses, whales, seals and albatrosses.
The news, announced as an “exciting discovery” by scientist Dr Peter Fretwell, was announced on Penguin Awareness Day and means there are currently 66 colonies known to breed on the Antarctic coastline.
Fretwell added: “New satellite images of the Antarctic coastline have allowed us to find many new colonies.”
Unfortunately, in this climate emergency, it wasn’t entirely positive news.
“Like many recently discovered sites, this colony is small and in an area badly affected by recent sea ice loss.”
Rising global temperatures mean melting ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic, causing sea levels to rise and threatening biodiversity all over the world – but especially for animals in both the Arctic and Antarctic.
For context, the British Antarctic Survey has spent the last 15 years looking at satellite images of penguin poop trying to track down new colonies. In fact, half of the known colonies were discovered this way.
Unfortunately, about 80% of penguin colonies are expected to be “semi-extinct” by the end of the century, according to scientists. This means that even if there are living individuals from the species, they could be doomed to extinction.
However, if we work to reduce climate change by no more than 2C, up to 68% of seabirds and land animals will benefit – meaning penguins have a chance to reverse the situation.