An international team led by scientists from the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) has discovered a colony formed by more than 1.5 million penguins in the Danger Islands, in the Weddell Sea, in the Eastern Antarctica Peninsula.
The discovery is surprising since the scientists never considered Danger Islands as a proper environment for penguins
According to sources, the small islands forming the so-called Danger Islands territory weren’t thought to harbor colonies of penguins and had gone unstudied by scientists.
The discovery of the 1.5 million penguins colony has been described in an article published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The authors highlighted that the area inhabited by this large group of penguins seems not to be affected by climate change and the human presence has been non-existent until now.
The 1.5 million penguins are in fact members of the Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) species, which is the very same species facing its decline on the other side of the Antarctic Peninsula, where the ice is melting and the human activity was often present in the past decades.
The discovery was made as part of a large-scale study of seabirds conducted with the Landsat satellite
An international team organized an expedition after they’ve noticed that the Danger Islands may be inhabited by penguins after some images captured with the Landsat satellite (owned by NASA and the US Geological Survey) depicted large amounts of penguins excrements on the islands.
The researchers went for an on-foot exploration and revealed that the Danger Islands host more than 750,000 pairs of Adelie penguins, representing the largest population in the Antarctic Peninsula.
However, as I’ve already mentioned before, only 160 km away, the same species of penguins (Adelie penguins) are on the brink of extinction due to ice melting caused by global warming.
The discovery of 1.5 million penguins colony can help scientists learn about how the climate changes are exactly affecting Antarctican penguins colonies and what measure could be taken to protect them.