In a shocking discovery, scientists found more than 1.5 million Adelie penguins by looking at poop stains in satellite images. The best part of this finding was that this supercolony of penguins managed to stay “under the radar” for about 3,000 years, living on a tiny patch of ground in Antarctica, surrounded by sea ice, known as the Danger Islands.
According to the researchers’ report, presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington, D.C., these more than 1.5 million Adelie penguins stayed hidden for at least 2,800 years. The discovery took place after ten months during which a team of scientists conducted a pan-Antarctic survey to estimated the Adelie penguins population.
Thanks to cloud-free satellite images taken by NASA and an automatic detection algorithm, also developed by a scientist at the US space agency, the researchers found the hidden supercolony of penguins on the Dangers Islands, a small patch of ground surrounded by sea ice.
Supercolony Of Penguins Stayed “Under The Radar” For About 3,000 Years
“We thought that we knew where all the Adelie penguin colonies were,” said Heather Lynch from the Stony Brook University. She added that thanks to the algorithm developed by the NASA scientist, the computer started to mark several pixels in an image of the Danger Islands. Eventually, the scientists figured out that the Danger Islands are filled with the poop of penguins.
“We, I think, had missed it in part because we hadn’t expected to find them there. [Danger Islands] are almost always covered by a thick layer of sea ice all around that precludes regular censuses in this area,” Lynch said. The researcher added that the Danger Islands are not accessible with ease.
However, the scientists ventured to the islands for a more in-depth survey of the hidden supercolony of penguins. What they found there shocked and excited them, as well as other scientists across the world – 1.5 million Adelie penguins were living on the Danger Islands, managing to stay “under the radar” for about 3,000 years.
With over seven years of experience in online journalism, Vadim is passionate about everything related to science and the environment. For us, he will thus cover climate, environment, and science news, among others.