Thursday, September 30, 2010

Inkayacu paracasensis: Fossilized giant penguin reveals unusual colors

Inkayacu paracasensis: Fossilized giant penguin reveals unusual colors, sheds light on bird evolution

Posted On: September 30, 2010 - 8:30pm
Inkayacu paracasensis: Fossilized giant penguin reveals unusual colors, sheds light on bird evolution
Paleontologists have unearthed the first extinct penguin with preserved evidence of scales and feathers. The 36-million-year-old fossil from Peru shows the new giant penguin's feathers were reddish brown and grey, distinct from the black tuxedoed look of living penguins.

The new species, Inkayacu paracasensis, or Water King, was nearly five feet tall or about twice the size of an Emperor penguin, the largest living penguin today.

"Before this fossil, we had no evidence about the feathers, colors and flipper shapes of ancient penguins. We had questions and this was our first chance to start answering them," said Julia Clarke, paleontologist at The University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences and lead author of a paper on the discovery in the Sept. 30 online edition of the journal Science.

Inkayacu Paracasensis ("Water King"), giant fossil penguin discovered in Peru. Credit: UT Austin.

The fossil shows the flipper and feather shapes that make penguins such powerful swimmers evolved early, while the color patterning of living penguins is likely a much more recent innovation.

Like living penguins and unlike all other birds, Inkayacu's wing feathers were radically modified in shape, densely packed and stacked on top of each other, forming stiff, narrow flippers. Its body feathers had broad shafts that in living penguins aid streamlining the body.

Bird feathers get some of their colors from the size, shape and arrangement of nanoscale structures called melanosomes. Matthew Shawkey and Liliana D'Alba, coauthors at the University of Akron, compared melanosomes recovered from the fossil to their extensive library of those from living birds to reconstruct the colors of the fossil penguin's feathers.

Melanosomes in Inkayacu were similar to those in birds other than living penguins, allowing the researchers to deduce the colors they produced. When the team looked at living penguins, they were surprised to find their colors were created by giant melanosomes, broader than in the fossil and in all other birds surveyed. They were also packed into groups that looked like clusters of grapes.

Why, the researchers wondered, did modern penguins apparently evolve their own special way to make black-brown feathers?

The unique shape, size and arrangement of living penguin melanosomes would alter the feather microstructure on the nano and micro scale, and melanin, contained within melanosomes, is known to give feathers resistance to wear and fracturing. Perhaps, the researchers speculate, these shifts might have had more to do with hydrodynamic demands of an aquatic lifestyle than with coloration. Penguin colors may have shifted for entirely different reasons related to the later origin of primary predators of extant penguins such as seals or other changes in late Cenozoic seas.

"Insights into the color of extinct organisms can reveal clues to their ecology and behavior," said coauthor Jakob Vinther at Yale University, who first noted fossil preservation of melanosomes in bird feathers. "But most of all, I think it is simply just cool to get a look at the color of a remarkable extinct organism, such as a giant fossil penguin."

Inkayacu paracasensis (een-kah-yah-koo par-ah-kah-sin-sis) was discovered by Peruvian student Ali Altamirano in Reserva Nacional de Paracas, Peru. Inkayacu's body length while swimming would have been about 1.5 meters (five feet), making it one of the largest penguins ever to have lived. When the team noticed scaly soft tissue preserved on an exposed foot, they nicknamed it "Pedro" after a sleazy or "escamoso" (scaly) character from a Colombian telenovela.

The latest discoveries add to earlier work by Clarke and her colleagues in Peru that challenges the conventional vision of early penguin evolution. Inkayacu and other finds show there was a rich diversity of giant penguin species in the late Eocene period (about 36 to 41 million years ago) of low-latitude Peru.
"This is an extraordinary site to preserve evidence of structures like scales and feathers," said Clarke. "So there's incredible potential for new discoveries that can change our view of not only penguin evolution, but of other marine vertebrates."

Source: University of Texas at Austin Via this location

Want to read more? Click here!

African Penguins Receive Protection--Finally!!

African Penguin Receives Endangered Species Act Protection

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Washington, DC -- African Penguin Receives Endangered Species Act Protection A species of penguin from Africa is now protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), following the publication of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) final listing determination in today’s Federal Register.
The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), a species native to Namibia and South Africa, has been listed as endangered.

The determination comes after a thorough review of best available scientific information, comments from the general public and peer reviewers, and any new information received during the public comment period following publication of the proposed rule to list this species. This rule implements the Federal protections provided by the Act for this species.

The African penguin population has declined 60.5 percent in the past 28 years due to food base declines and competition for food with the fishing industry and Cape fur seals. The population decline has been severely exacerbated by rapid ecosystem changes at the northern end of the penguin’s distribution and by major shifts of prey resources to outside of the accessible foraging range of breeding penguins at the southern end of its distribution; habitat modification and destruction; predation; and oil spills. Climate change contributes to these threats through rising sea levels, increasing sea surface temperatures, declines in upwelling intensities, predicted increases in frequency and intensity of El Niño events in the Benguela marine ecosystem, and predicted increases in sulphide eruptions.

Granting foreign species protection under the Endangered Species Act means that the import or export of any of the species, or their parts or products, as well as their sale in interstate or foreign commerce, is prohibited. Take of listed species, which includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect, or to attempt any of these, within the U.S. is also prohibited. Permits for these prohibited actions may be issued for specific purposes consistent with the Endangered Species Act.

The final rule appeared in the September 28, 2010 Federal Register and will become effective on October 28, 2010. For more information visit the Service’s website at


A Penguin’s Tale

September 28, 2010

Long Nights and Thin Ice: A Penguin’s Tale

A conversation with penguin expert Grant Ballard on the short-term wins and long-term losses facing one of the world’s most charismatic animals.

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times — for penguins.

By Michael Todd

But like the French populace careening to apocalypse in Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities,” the final outcome for the Adèlie penguins that ecologist Grant Ballard studies will be dire.

Ballard, the director of the Informatics Program at PRBO Conservation Science in Point Reyes, Calif., has been studying the Adélies on Antarctica’s Ross Island since 1996. (A nonprofit, PRBO started in 1965 as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and now studies biodiversity conservation on land and sea.)

His research has determined that some colonies of Adèlies, those living near Ross Island, are going to be near-term winners of how climate change affects the world’s seventh continent. This will occur even as their peers on the Antarctic Peninsula 2,000 miles away face a punishing slog toward probable localized extinction.
“The colonies I study are doing very well right now,” Ballard explains, “and that’s nice, because they’re not doing so well in other parts of Antarctica, so it’s good that they’re doing well somewhere. We expect them to do so for a little time to come, but again, that depends on what climate model you choose. It could be as short as 20 years before they start facing some real challenges.”

Those challenges affect how they feed and breed, and in a land that really has no constituency among policymakers despite the charisma of its (few) denizens. But Adèlies are tough old birds, and they’ve survived past advances and retreats of the Antarctic ice sheet in the last 40 millennia or so.

“They’ve been able to adapt to large scale change previously,” Ballard notes. “If we could just give them a break, they may be able to do it again.” But the accelerated pace of anthropogenic climate change, and a newfound interest in Antarctic fisheries by humankind, may be a double whammy the Adèlies can’t avoid.
Grant Ballard’s mentor, the renowned penguin expert David G. Ainley, has dubbed Adèlies the “bellwether of climate change,” in part because they are completely dependent on the continued existence of sea ice and in part because they have been well studied and so provide a good baseline for observing change. (Ainley even used the “Tale of Two Cities” analogy in discussing differing fates of colonies just on Ross Island.)

Penguins Antarctica
Click to enlarge

And while they too troop across ice fields, Adélies are not the marquee bird in the popular documentary The March of the Penguins; that role went to their tuxedoed cousin, the Emperor penguin. “Well studied” isn’t an easy proposition in the Antarctic, Ballard says, and no one had ever looked the Adelies’ entire migratory cycle before. “The fact that they’re out at sea, in the middle of pack ice, and it’s really dark, dangerous and expensive to study them at that time means that it hasn’t been done.”

The research he was part of — conducted between 2003 and 2005 by PRBO along with H.T. Harvey and Associates, Stanford University, NASA and the British Antarctic Survey, and funded by the National Science Foundation, Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Program in the Antarctic Sciences Division— involved fitting the birds with geolocator tags on their legs so the researchers could determine what the birds were up to, based on light levels and time, year-round, and not just in seasons congenial to human scientists. The results appear in the journal Ecology.

Modern technology helps, but is no panacea. You can rig the birds with satellite transmitters, as the researchers also did, but they’re big, bothersome to the bird, difficult to attach, often don’t work after a while and often pecked off or molted away. The much smaller geolocator tags are easier on the birds, and as long as they’re black and white they don’t automatically get pecked off, but they also require finding the same birds a year or two down the line to retrieve the tag and download its data. (The researchers are heading back this year for a closer look at individual bird behavior based on age and experience.)

Beyond the existential concerns, the research has uncovered some interesting information about the birds. Using ocean currents, Adèlies may make annual roundtrips of more than 8,000 miles, behavior the scientists think evolved as recently as the last ice age. And like many travelers, the birds hustle home on the return leg of the trip, moving about twice as fast as they go from their wintering location to their breeding spots.
“There’s a real urgency in what they did — they never waste any time,” says Ballard. “They’re at limits of what they can do — really in a hurry to get started, “to look for last year’s mate, to seek premium nest site. “Yeah,” he concludes, “I think they’re in a hurry to get home.”

That migration is the focus of concerns about the penguins’ long-term prospects in a warmer world.
The birds’ entire ecosystem revolves around ice, where it is and where it ain’t. When they’re foraging at sea, they need the ice as a place to rest and as a jumping-off and -in point for the buffet. These areas of open sea water surrounded by ice might, in summertime, see 15 to 20 percent ice cover; in the wintertime, as much as 80 percent.

But Adèlies raise their families on land, building nests of small stones on rocky outcrops and plains.
“It’s kind of a paradox for them,” Ballard acknowledges. “They reside in Antarctica, where there’s hardly any ice-free terrain, and yet they require that to nest.”

While that all suggests a rather fiddly species, Adèlies have shown themselves pretty robust.
Some boom-and-bust in their colonies has always occurred, and the birds’ natural curiosity, their tendency to explore, has served them well. “There’s a certain percentage of the population that’s always out there looking for a new opportunity, and they will settle in a place that looks like a good idea even if there are no penguins there,” Ballard says, adding, “and there’s usually a reason there’s no penguins there.”

However, those “test” colonies may be well placed for changing times.

While such flexibility may sound sensible to people, it surprised scientists. In another recent paper looking at Adèlies at Ross, researchers — including Ballard  from PRBO, Ainley with H.T. Harvey, Oregon State University and Landacre Research New Zealand — documented penguins abandoning their traditional nesting sites when times there grew too hard.

“Witnessing large numbers of adult birds who have already successfully nested in one location switching to a new site in the face of environmental change has rarely been documented and is indeed surprising,” Oregon State’s Kate Dugger is quoted in a release.

While that sounds reassuring for penguins and their partisans, there’s a caveat. “Like animals living near the tops of mountains,” Dugger cautions, “polar animals have limited options if the planet warms beyond a certain point.”

In that vein, researchers are watching these adventuresome penguins wend their way south, toward the South Pole.

With warming, he said, those that are moving farther south will be the ones that find a new place that’s got the newest open water and the least competition for food and they’ll probably thrive. … “At some point — and it might be very close to where they are now, but we don’t know — they won’t be able to overcome that difference that they have to cover to get back to the wintering ground.”

Ballard says he thinks the birds could waddle the distance, but the associated risks and effort of jumping in and out of sea ice will create a limit. “They won’t adapt endlessly — I believe they’ve never ever been more than 20 or 30 kilometers south of where they are now,” he says, using mummified remains dating back 35,000 to 40,000 years as his boundary line.

The distance south also creates another problem for the birds — wintertime darkness in a place where the night is half a year long. The penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula are moving south to find sea ice in the winter, which puts them in longer and longer periods of darkness.

“But they also require light,” Ballard says. “They require light for navigating, and we think they require it for some aspects of foraging, although we don’t know for sure exactly why they need light because they forage very deep where it’s very dark. It seems they need to initiate dives when there’s at least some light.
“We know from other studies that they don’t move around at all when it’s dark or seriously overcast, so it seems they require some amount of sun or some concept of where the sun is to make long-distance migrations.”
“Ultimately penguins around Antarctica will face darkness or lack of ice — they’ll just reach that boundary from different directions,” he has said.

But in the Ross Sea, these are actually pretty good times for Adèlies since the hole in the ozone layer — remember that? — creates upper atmosphere cooling, which increases winds, which increases sea ice. Ballard calls it a “giant ice generator,” and as long as temperatures remain above freezing, it will likely remain one.

“People expect the ice to be going away, and fast, but in the Ross Sea it isn’t — yet. However, we do expect to in 20 years, or it could be 40 years, depending on which models you look at, we expect we’ll start seeing a decline in sea ice again, in the Ross Sea.”

The Antarctic, a continent, is not the Arctic, an oceanic system, despite their shared frigidity. Antarctica is holding a huge amount of landlocked ice, which is mostly reflecting sunlight back, which slows the rate of loss. The peninsula, however, is already seeing loss of sea ice.

“It’s a situation much more similar to the Arctic, and in those areas Adèlie penguins are disappearing already.” Flooding caused by warmer temperatures has been especially harmful for penguin chicks, which can’t yet “thermo-regulate” when they’re wet. In one case, a 2001 snowfall — although cold as heck, Antarctica is usually pretty dry and therefore not particularly snowy — was so big it buried thousands of adults on their nests. A similar freakish blizzard came in 2006, but it was later in the season and less devastating.

Although freakish, the historical record — based on mummified penguins — shows that weird weather like giant blizzards and giant icebergs and even localized appearances and disappearances of Adèlies has occurred before. Disappearances on the Antarctic Peninsula, at least of small colonies struggling in less optimal places, are occurring now, as ecologist Bill Fraser has documented (and The New Yorker‘s Fen Montaigne reported on in December.)

But climate change isn’t the only human-caused woe for the birds.
“They have other challenges with fisheries coming in more and more now, too,” Ballard says. “There’s sort of the double whammy of climate change and increased human extraction, especially with fisheries. The penguins [which eat krill, small fish and squid] don’t necessarily compete directly with the fishermen, but the ecosystem as a whole does. We’re concerned about what happens to the system when you start removing — as we have everywhere — the top predators, the big fish.”

Ballard and the other researchers are providing information to a member of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the one organization with the statutory authority to create non-fishing areas off Antarctica. The convention is planning to examine that possibility in the spring. The researchers have also provided information to the nongovernmental organization the Antarctica and South Ocean Coalition, which supports a marine protected area for the Ross Sea, as this video titled “The Ross Sea, Antarctica” suggests.*

While Ballard isn’t taking a public position on what the convention should do, because the Antarctic is pretty much the last accessible place on Earth that hasn’t been completely altered by humanity, he is concerned about a potential loss that echoes beyond Adèlie colonies.

“From a scientific perspective, it’s a tragedy to lose this place, last reference point.” Ballard laments. “From a cultural perspective, a human value perspective, I think people can understand it’s probably not a good idea to destroy every ecosystem on the planet.”

*The Antarctica and South Ocean Coalition supports marine protected area status for the Ross Sea ice shelf. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said they had not yet taken a stand.


Penguins Life on the Edge--New Exhibit

Canton exhibit reveals penguins' life on the edge

Chris Linder/Contributed

A pair of inquisitive Adélie penguins.

More Photos

By Anonymous
Posted Sep 28, 2010 @ 03:59 PM
Who doesn’t love penguins? On Sunday, October 3, from 1 to 5 p.m., the Mass Audubon Visual Arts Center in Canton opens an exhibition of photographs by Chris Linder featuring the Adélie penguins of the Antarctic. Light refreshments will be served.

Titled "Life on the Edge: Adélie Penguins," the exhibition shows dramatic Antarctic landscapes shaped by volcanoes and ice, and life in the fragile penguin colonies facing uncertain future due to climate change. Visitors will see photographs of penguins building nests, feeding their chicks, and battling the increasing storms.

Chris Linder is a professional science and nature photographer and multimedia producer. His photography career began while working as a research technician at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he was frequently called on to document oceanographic expeditions at the ends of the earth.
Since 2002, Chris has focused on communicating the stories of scientists working in the Arctic and Antarctic. His education and training as an oceanographer give him a special insight into photographing science. He has photographed 20 major scientific field projects, 14 of which have been in the polar regions.

The exhibition will be on view through January 9, 2011.


Image of the Day

Eudyptes chrysocome
Originally uploaded by Dominique Pipet

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

News from S. African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds

Portrait African Penguin

African penguin numbers in rapid decline
Chanel September | Yesterday
The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds on Monday said the population of the African penguin is declining rapidly.

This worrying trend was discussed as part of International Tourism Day at Sanccob’s offices in Table View, Cape Town.

The foundation said in the last 10 years the population has shrunk by more than half.

Authorities recorded 200,000 African penguins in 2000 and today there are only 60,000 left.

The seabird rehabilitation centre said at least 10,000 die each year, mostly due to starvation.

CEO Venessa Strauss said they were doing everything in their power to prevent the birds from becoming extinct.

(Edited by Lisa Bartlett)


Image of the Day

Originally uploaded by Traumahawk
A little rock for you!

Too Cure Penguin Tries to Fly

Your morning adorable: Gentoo penguin chick flaps his wings as if trying to fly

September 27, 2010 | 

We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw YouTube user ashokbo's video of a young gentoo penguin that looks suspiciously as if he's giving himself flying lessons.

Ashokbo suspects the little guy "has not learned that he is a penguin and [cannot] fly!" (We wonder if he isn't merely practicing his swimming skills, but we like ashokbo's idea better.)

This enthusiastically flapping fellow is a resident of Petermann Island, an Antarctic island that's home to a large population of gentoo and Adelie penguins.

A gentoo penguin is easily distinguishable from other types of penguin by the markings on its head (white patches behind each eye that meet at the crown of its head), its orange beak and its bushy tail feathers. Gentoos are the third-largest type of penguin, behind the emperor penguin and the king penguin.


Jacksonville Zoo--One Penguin Dead, More Sick

One of eight new Jacksonville Zoo penguins dead

Posted: September 27, 2010 - 5:51pm
Some of the eight penguins at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens' new exhibit when it opened this past spring.  BRUCE LIPSKY-File
Some of the eight penguins at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens' new exhibit when it opened this past spring.
Thistle, one of the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens' Magellanic penguins, died Sept. 6 following a bout of aspergillosis, while another is being treated for the disease.

The new exhibit, with eight penguins and a 12,000-gallon tank, was unveiled in March. Thistle was diagnosed with the infection, which affects the aquatic bird's respiratory system, in April. Treated by zoo staff, he showed improvement by May, eating and swimming well until he and the other penguins began their annual molt. But the increased demand caused by molting impacted Thistle's immune system opened him up to other health problems and he died despite additional treatment, according to zoo officials.

A necropsy (animal autopsy) showed no more infection, and aspergillosis was not the cause of death. Now a female penguin named Oreo is under treatment for aspergillosis as molting affects her health as well right now. Oreo also showed improvement prior to molting, said zoo officials.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oil Soaked Penguins Getting Help

Efforts underway to save oil-soaked penguins in Argentina
BUENOS AIRES — More than 140 petroleum-covered penguins, including several which succumbed after being poisoned by the oil, have been found in southern Argentina, officials said Wednesday.
"We now have 130 penguins in our care and another 11 which have died," said Silvia Montanelli, head of the region's ministry which oversees agriculture and gaming. "We're on a state of alert."
She said the birds were part of a yearly migration of thousands of nesting penguins in Argentina's Patagonia region, which travel thousands of miles from southern Brazil.
Officials said they did not know what the source of the oil was, but said it is possible that it came from a spill that went undetected by authorities.
The governor of southern Argentina's Chabut region vowed to find and prosecute those responsible for any spill.


This Week's Pencognito!! visit Jen and all the pengies HERE!

Five Humboldt penguins die from heatstroke in Toyama zoo

Five Humboldt penguins die from heatstroke in Toyama zoo

Humboldt penguins at Toyama Municipal Family Park Zoo are pictured in this Dec. 2008 photo. (Mainichi)
Humboldt penguins at Toyama Municipal Family Park Zoo are pictured in this Dec. 2008 photo. (Mainichi)
TOYAMA -- This summer, five of the thirteen Humboldt penguins at Toyama Municipal Family Park Zoo died from heatstroke, the zoo announced on Sept. 24.

Although the Humboldt penguin is said to be relatively resistant to heat, it apparently wasn't enough for this year's scorching hot summer that brought 19 successive days of temperatures over 35 degrees in Toyama -- the most on record.

"I don't remember this kind of thing ever happening before," said a representative of the zoo.
Humboldt penguins live primarily on the coast of temperate areas in South America such as Chile and Peru, and there are some 1,700 at around 80 facilities in Japan, said a zoo representative.

The first penguin to die was a 22-year-old female on Aug. 19. Through Sept. 21, four more penguins died -- three females and one male, aged from four to 15 years. Dissections of the bodies determined that the penguins had died from dehydration and other symptoms of heatstroke.

Blood tests of the remaining eight penguins showed problems such as impaired kidney and liver function, leading the zoo to close the penguin exhibit from Sept. 22 and begin administering vitamins and taking other measures for the penguins' health.

Records from the Toyama Local Meteorological Observatory show that on the days when the penguins died, the maximum recorded temperatures in the city were from 29.4 to 33.6 degrees. A zoo representative said that although the zoo had taken measures including setting up running water on the land part of the penguin exhibit and installing mist-blowing machines, these steps appear to have been insufficient for protecting the penguins from dehydration.

(Mainichi Japan) September 25, 2010


Image of the Day

Penguins meet Guanacos
Originally uploaded by Sallyrango
Who is that? the little penguin wondered...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Image of the Day

Originally uploaded by StormPetrel1

Penguins Torn to Pieces

Cologne Zoo on High Alert after Fox Attack

I don't know nuttin' about no penguins.
I don't know nuttin' about no penguins.

Keepers at Cologne zoo are mourning the loss of five penguins torn to pieces by predatory foxes. The zoo's management is deploying new security measures to protect the remaining avian livestock. 

The fox has been the traditional enemy of farmers in Europe for centuries. Now, though, it looks like zoo keepers would be well advised to keep the cunning canines on their radar.

Staff at Cologne's zoo are in a state of shock after a brutal attack on the facility's penguin colony. Foxes tore five penguins to pieces, according to the German tabloid Express. A nuisance skulk of foxes also recently attacked the zoo's flamingos and ducks. All three enclosures are now surrounded by a low-current electric fence to protect the feathered residents.
Zoo executive director Christopher Landsberg told the newspaper that the fences are only a provisional measure. "We're working on a way to secure the periphery of the zoo to prevent the foxes from getting in in the first place," he said. The vulpine predators currently sneak onto the premises under cover of darkness through gaps in the perimeter wall.

Well-Laid Table
Foxes apparently plague zoos all over Germany. In 2008 in Aachen, they attacked another penguin enclosure, murdering 13 out of the zoo's 19 birds. The calling card of the fox: decapitation.

Cologne zoo co-director Theo Pagel warned against the nighttime assassins in 2006. "You can't blame them, the table is so well laid," he said, according to Express. Zoo animals enjoy what is, on the whole, a sheltered life in captivity, but are still vulnerable to attacks, and not just by foxes. Danger can also lurk in the form of their fellow zoo inhabitants -- like the case of the murder of two red pandas in Nuremberg in 2008. An investigation found the killings to be the vengeful work of Reeves' Muntjac deer, who apparently slit the pandas' stomachs with their sharp teeth and hooves after one of their young was attacked by the red pandas.
Sometimes, though, it's humans who pose the biggest danger to zoo animals. In 2007, three flamingos were found decapitated and a fourth was strangled in a bizarre attackat the Frankfurt Zoo. That same year in Erfurt, widespread disgust and outrage followed the news that keepers had been slaughtering their charges, including deer and goats, and selling the meat.

jlb -- with wire reports


Friday, September 24, 2010

Image of the Day

Originally uploaded by Catman BCN
Magellanic Penguin

Photos & Videos - Emperor Penguins: Snow Hill Island Safari

Click here to see Quark's new video about the Snow Hill Colony

And here's a video from someone who went on Quark's cruise to Snow Hill: 

Penguin Ready to Rock

Feathers set to fly with p-p-p-perfect penguin metal tune

editorial image G.U. Medicine with their penguin pal

WE’VE written about many strange and obscure singers on this page over the years – but never before have we written about a singing penguin.
Well, to be honest, Ricky The Rockhopper Penguin is squawking rather than singing like a bird, but by ‘eck is it a cracking tune that he has put his voice to!
Ricky, who lives at London Zoo, was persuaded to put his tones to reel by Leeds-based trio G.U. Medicine.
The band had written the track Ice Cold about their love of the alcoholic tipple Jagermeister, and when Ricky turned his ears to the number during a break from swimming with his penguin pals, he was hooked by the killer riffs and decided that he wanted a piece of the action.
When City Nights was sent the video of the collaboration to watch it turned afternoon drear to office cheer.
“Ricky certainly wasn’t microphone shy,” G.U. Medicine chap Ryan Senior revealed.
“In fact, he tried to eat it! He squawked his vocal part like one of the true greats!”
In honour of this stonking, lively thumper of a song, which could be the best rock collaboration since Aerosmith teamed up with Run DMC, City Nights has hooked up with Jagermeister and we have three goodie-bags to give away which are full of Jager-goodies.
To be in with a chance of winning one, simply send an email to with your name and address.
Put ‘Penguin pop’ in the subject box.
Closing date for entries is Wednesday, September 29.
Now that Ricky has had a taste of the rock n roll lifestyle, we reckon that he might like another crack at the recording process and have come up with a few songs that might just fit the beak, erm we mean bill...

1 Simply The Nest – Tina Turner
2 Mull of Kintyre – Wings
3 The Birdy Song – The Tweets
4 Like a Penguin – Madonna
5 Feather & Lace – Stevie Nicks


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Update on Penguin Deaths in S. Australia

Penguin deaths blamed on dog

Posted 1 hour 43 minutes ago
South Australia's Department of Environment and Natural Resources says a medium to large dog was the most likely killer of 15 little penguins at Kangaroo Island on Sunday.
The department's Bill Haddrill says it is likely the dog was a domestic animal because there are no wild dogs, dingoes or foxes on the island.
He says there is no evidence to further investigate which dog was responsible but all pet owners can play their part to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
"One of the main messages from us is to urge residents to maintain their dogs, in particular, within their yards, particularly overnight, so that we can reduce or minimise the risk of wildlife being killed in a similar attack in the future," he said.


Penguins Visit Children's Hospital

Penguins Lead March at Rady Children's Hospital

Penguins visit kids at Rady Children's

Updated 2:46 PM PDT, Tue, Sep 21, 2010
Penguins marched through the halls of Rady Children's Hospital leading children on a mini-walk-a-thon to help raise money for the non-profit hospital on Tuesday morning.

The walk started at the Hematology/Oncology unit at Rady Children's and ended up in a play room, where the children, many in wheelchairs or hooked up to I.V. poles, were able to pet the penguins and visit with costumed characters from SeaWorld.

The special walk was held for the children, since they cannot be apart of the 4th Annual SeaWorld Shamu & You Family Walk held at the amusement park each year to raise money for Rady Children's.
The children's fragile medical conditions prevent them from participating in the walk.
"She has been so excited," said Michiko Schroeder, whose daughter Kimiko has a rare form of cancer.
"She goes to SeaWorld all the time and it has been very hard for us because we haven't been able to leave the hospital to go do activities," Schroeder said.

For the children, the event was something for them to look forward to.
"I love animals it makes me so happy to see one in real life, especially a penguin," said Rady Children's patient 11-year-old Tiffany Vargas. "You would never think of petting a penguin. It was really cool."
This year, the annual SeaWorld Shamu & You Family walk will be held on October 2, 2010.

Source: Penguins Lead March at Rady Children's Hospital | NBC San Diego

Image of the Day

Rockhopper penguins kiss
Originally uploaded by Sallyrango

Monday, September 20, 2010

China's first test-tube emperor penguin is in 'good health'

China's first test-tube emperor penguin is in 'good health'

Happy feet: China's first test-tube emperor penguin snuggles up to its mother at the Laohutan Ocean Park in the north-east city of Dalian.

China's first test-tube emperor penguin is in good health (Pic: Rex) China's first test-tube emperor penguin is in good health (Pic: Rex)
The chick was artificially inseminated and born a month ago after 66 days of incubation, which included 5 days in an artificial incubator when the adult penguins left the egg.

It is in 'good health', according to China's National Bureau of Oceanography.

Emperor Penguins were first brought to China in 2008 from their native Antarctic home, and the marine park they now occupy has had an artificial polar environment specially constructed.

The species - largest by weight and height of all penguin species - is under threat from global warming, according to a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution study in 2009, which estimated that extinction could be a possibility by the end of this century.


Kangaroo Island penguins mauled to death

Kangaroo Island penguins mauled to death

Updated Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:06am AEST
Kangaroo Island penguins attacked
Kangaroo Island penguins attacked by dog (7pm TV News SA)
An attack on a penguin colony on Kangaroo Island in South Australia may have been by a dog, but there is also a chance the culprit was a seal.
At least 15 little penguins were mauled to death.
A tourist found the penguins on a beach near Kingscote on Sunday morning.
The colony is a popular part of the island's tourism industry as about half of Kingscote's visitors take penguin tours.
The manager of the town's penguin centre John Ayliffe says the council has found the dog which some are blaming for the attack.
"The town has a high sense of ownership of the penguin colony here, there's about 800 penguins here so if a dog has been getting out and killing penguins there's public pressure to see that situation is corrected," he said.
The council said it was yet to decide whether the dog will be put down, but it is taking the attacks very seriously.
Mr Ayliffe says the penguins are already under threat and it is likely the 12 found on Sunday were not the only birds killed.
"Because the areas in a semi-natural state, there's a lot of bush and stuff," he said.
"We wouldn't have found anywhere near all of them. But the problem is that every adult penguin that is killed essentially means two penguins dead because they can't raise their young for the rest of the year."
Kangaroo Island mayor Jayne Bates has raised the prospect that the penguins may have been attacked by a seal, not a dog.
She said paw prints in the sand were not firm evidence of the culprit.
"Unfortunately paw prints on the beach doesn't give us much direction and doesn't actually lead you to believe it is a dog absolutely. Our penguins unfortunately do also suffer seal attacks quite regularly," she said.


Image of the Day

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Image of the Day

Originally uploaded by rrm998
Rare shot of Galapagos Penguin juvenile!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

This Week's Pencognito!!
Come see Jen and all the pengies HERE!

Cute Humboldt is Image of the Day


Humboldt penguins are cute little suckers, and their playful nature is enough to overlook the fact that they like to nestle up in poop and have spiny tongues. While these 9-pound birds with flight complications call the rocky shores and cliffs of Peru and Chile home, they also have an award-winning habitat here in Seattle.
The Woodland Park Zoo scooped up its fifth award for exhibit excellence from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums this week for its Humboldt Penguin Habitat.

The birds' home - described as having "dramatic vantage points, shoreline cliffs, a cerulean, rocky tide pool, rolling, crashing waves, and a beach" - sounds pretty awesome. However, the authentic aesthetic qualities of the exhibit were not the only factors that caught the judges' eyes. The habitat is the world's first sustainable penguin exhibit, featuring geothermal warming and cooling as well as eco-friendly water filtration.

Sharing this year's Exhibit Achievement Award with Woodland Park is the Oregon Zoo down in Portland, who were singled out for their impressive Predators of the Serengeti showcase.

The new accolade is the perfect reason to check out the Humboldt Penguins and the 300 other species of animals that call the Woodland Park Zoo home. The gates will be open from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. through the end of the month.


Aussies! Phillip Island's Penguins Star On TV

Phillip Island's penguins hit the small screen

Posted Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:08pm AEST
The private lives of Victoria's penguins are on show thanks to a six-part television series being launched at Phillip Island today.
Producer Sally Ingleton says the series shows the lives and behaviour of the penguins, as well as their interaction with humans in the Phillip Island Nature Park.
"We show the fact that they often aren't faithful, that they do have affairs," she said.
"Also sometimes that things go wrong. Sometimes suddenly the fish will go offshore and the little chicks will be left waiting there for two, three, four nights for mum and dad to come home and, you know, sometimes they don't make it as well."
Ms Ingleton says Phillip Island's penguin colony is unique because of its interaction with tourists, park rangers and researchers.
"We always found that when we were working on the series, what people loved was when the worlds of animals and people actually collide," she said.
"That's why this story is so unique because we've documented perhaps the last 18 months when people were actually living in the colony alongside penguins."
The series has screened on the BBC in the United Kingdom, attracting audiences of more than 3 million for each episode.
The series starts on ABC1 on September 30.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Image of the Day

Aoo Wins Award & a Link for a video)

Little Penguin video (non-embeddable) right here!

Jennifer Svane/Woodland Park Zoo
A girl and a penguin see eye to eye at the Woodland Park Zoo's Humboldt penguin exhibit, which won the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' Exhibit Achievement Award this week.

Zoo wins award for penguin exhibit

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums has honored Woodland Park Zoo with the Exhibit Achievement Award for the zoo's Humboldt penguin exhibit, which opened in May 2009.
The prestigious award, equivalent to an Oscar in the zoo and aquarium industry according to a zoo press release, was presented this week at the Association of Zoos & Aquariums annual conference in Houston. This is the fifth time Woodland Park Zoo has won the award for best exhibit.
In a rare move by the association, the top award also went to a second institution, Oregon Zoo, for its Predators of the Serengeti.
The achievement award is presented by the association for outstanding dedication to conservation issues, construction of exhibit space and simulation of species' natural habitats.
“This award is the highest honor for new exhibits," Jim Maddy, Association of Zoos & Aquariums president and CEO, said in the zoo's press release. "Woodland Park Zoo is on the leading edge of zoological exhibits in North America. Their penguin exhibit demonstrates Woodland Park Zoo's dedication to the best in animal care and public education.
“We are honored that our peers at AZA have recognized our goal of encouraging our zoo guests to explore and discover more about the Humboldt penguins’ natural history and their plight in the wild, the birds’ connection to people and the collaborative work underway to help this endangered species,” Dr. Deborah Jensen, Woodland Park Zoo president and CEO, said in the press release.
The state-of-the-art penguin exhibit transports zoo-goers to the arid, rocky, coastal peninsula of Punta San Juan, home to the largest breeding population of Humboldt penguins in Peru, according to the press release.
Dramatic vantage points, shoreline cliffs, a cerulean, rocky tide pool, crashing waves and a beach create a truly memorable, immersive experience for zoo guests and a healthy, enriching environment for the birds, according to the press release.
The penguin exhibit was one of 12 exhibits under consideration for the association's award.
Last year, the exhibit earned a Design Excellence Award from the Seattle Design Commission for its sustainable goals, including energy efficient heating from Seattle City Light and a water-saving filtration system from Seattle Public Utilities.
As part of Woodland Park Zoo’s commitment to green practices, the exhibit uses geothermal energy and an innovative filtration system that will save 3 million gallons of water and nearly 22,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year, according to the press release.


Why Else Go On a Cruise?

Penguins are the stars of any cruise to Antarctica

By Hilke Segbers Sep 16, 2010, 10:20 GMT 

Ushuaia, Argentina - Marilyn Monroe would have understood. Stones mean wealth to penguins. And they are willing to travel great distances - and even become thieves - to acquire some pebbles.

Those who wish to observe the tuxedo-feathered creatures collecting stones must travel a great distance themselves. From Europe it is tens of thousands of kilometres to Antarctica, the planet's coldest and least-developed continent, one whose surface is covered up to 98 per cent by ice. In contrast to the Arctic region, Antarctica does have firm ground beneath the ice - and tiny stones.

From Europe, the journey means a roughly 14-hour flight to Buenos Aires, and from there, another four hours to Tierra del Fuego. Ushuaia is the main port of departure for ship expeditions and cruise ships. About 35 ships travel during the southern hemisphere's summer from Ushuaia to Antarctica.

The voyages usually range between 13 and 22 days. But this hardly means that the tourists must spend so much time among the eternal ice. After the departure from Ushuaia, the Beagle Canal and then Drake Passage, must be navigated.

The latter, even in the most comfortable of the modern ships, is not the easiest route. Even with the use of anti-sea sickness medications, the dining room of the ship is only half-filled at mealtime. Outside, gale-force winds are whipping up the waves.

The shaky voyage through the heaving seas takes nearly three days. Then the waters are calmer and the first icebergs come into view.

In majestic grandeur, the huge slabs of ice are floating in the deep blue waters. And the closer one approaches these floating islands, more and more tiny black dots appear: penguins.

Those who asked themselves why they bothered during the difficult ride through Drake Passage, now see why they made this journey after all, especially when they spot their first colony of penguins.

One might just smell the odour of the nesting grounds from miles away. The birds themselves often are dirty. But they are also charming to their mates, industrious in building their nests of stones, comical in the way they move about, and elegant once they are swimming in the water.

The first chance to meet the penguins comes on the South Shetland Islands. Half Moon Island is inhabited by a large colony of penguins. From far away one can see the 'penguin highways' - the paths which they have tramped in the snow between their nests and the sea.

Visitors land on the island via inflatable boats. And then, standing and facing the birds, they learn something right away: penguins are not fearful creatures. Unperturbed, they waddle along their paths and sit in their nests - no matter how close the humans may approach.

Every visitor has been instructed to keep a distance of at least five metres. But many forget this, so charmed they are by the penguins. 'Here are two chicks in the nest!' exclaims a visitor, forgetting the rules and edging closer and closer.

The accompanying crew members don't think this is funny and quickly command the overzealous visitors to back a distance away from the nests.

Many vessels which offer expedition trips in the Antarctic region have scientists on board, and they adhere to the regulations of IAATO, the association of Antarctic travel organizations. Among the rules is that a bay can only be visited for a maximum of four hours and that no more than 100 people at a time may go on land. Smoking and eating is prohibited. And nothing may be left behind on the ice.

At Port Lockroy, one stops worrying about whether the penguins feel disturbed. In fact, they build their nests virtually right up to the steps leading to the old British naval station. During World War II the British had set up the station together with another one on Deception Island in order to keep tabs on shipping movements.
In 1996 the British Antarctic Heritage Trust renovated Port Lockroy. Since then there has been a museum, a post office and a souvenir shop. Visitors can even have a penguin seal stamped in their passports.

A further highlight of the trip is the passage through the Lemaire channel. At points narrowing down to 1.6 kilometres, the channel was first sighted in 1873, with the first passage through in 1898. When the sun is shining the slopes of the Antarctic peninsula and of Booth Island are reflected in the 11-kilometre-long channel, in which countless icebergs are drifting.

At the end of the cruise visitors have become something of an expert on penguins. They have learned that penguins do not need to fear any animals of prey on land, but certainly must watch out for leopard seals, toothed whales, skuas and petrels. And that most of the penguins have a passion for stones. So it is a good rule that visitors may take nothing back with them. Not even pebbles.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Image of the Day (yesterday)

White flippered little blue penguin on Motinau Island , North Canterbury, New Zealand.

Image of the Day

Penguins in a Row
Originally uploaded by phoenixfeather
Click picture to see larger panorama!