Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New study shows penguin diving a complex pattern

Updated Wed May 29, 2013 
An international research team has found the diving patterns of the little penguins of Victoria's Phillip Island are complex and quite repetitive. Australian penguin biologist, Dr Andre Chiaradia says now that there is a base-line behaviour, scientists are well placed to detect any impact caused by climate change.
Source: The World Today
ELEANOR HALL: An international study into penguins shows they not only have happy feet, they're also accomplished divers.
Research into the little penguins which inhabit Victoria's Phillip Island has found that they dive in intricate patterns.

And they are consistent with these patterns, whether the dive lasts two and a half minutes, or five and a half hours.
The research team has had its findings published in the journal Nature.
The Australian member of the team, Dr Andre Chiaradia, spoke to Simon Santow.

ANDRE CHIARADIA: We put this little computer on the back of the penguin which records every single movement of the penguins when they dive. Because of course penguins are very good divers and we wanted to know how did they dive, how often they dived, how many dives they make per day.

SIMON SANTOW: And what did you discover?

ANDRE CHIARADIA: Well we knew already the penguins, they make lots and lots of dives per day, in fact they make thousands and thousands of dives per day, but what we didn't know is how often those divings they repeat in a pattern. So how long it takes from a penguin to go from the beginning to the end in a diving cycle to get the food they need.

SIMON SANTOW: And was there a pattern to their dives?

ANDRE CHIARADIA: Exactly, it was a quite clear pattern. That what penguins do in three and four minutes repeats over five hours.

SIMON SANTOW: So you found that they repeated themselves fairly regularly.


SIMON SANTOW: What is the significance of that discovery?

ANDRE CHIARADIA: They repeat but in a quite complex way and that's why it took us so long to do it because we need to do this very sort of sophisticated analysis.

SIMON SANTOW: If penguins are repeating themselves, does that indicate that they are devoid of imagination or that they are very disciplined in their actions?

ANDRE CHIARADIA: Animals, including ourselves, we are creatures of habit. So we have this pattern that we wake up in the morning, we have all these rituals, we have breakfast, like, you guys now having breakfast this morning, it's something that you do every morning, and then you go to work.
So we have this pattern that we repeat over and over again. Humans, they work five days, and they have two days they rest, that kind of pattern, that's what we're trying to find on penguins and before doing this analysis we didn't have a clear cut when one thing starts and ends.

ELEANOR HALL: Dr Andre Chiaradia is a penguin biologist from Phillip Island Nature Parks and a member of that international research team. He was speaking to Simon Santow.


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