In this Text it will go to waste. To excrement, feces, Poop, Sh — well, you know. It will also go to people you collect in the service of science, and poke. And cute penguins, to which it will go, of course.

But one after the other.

First of all, we would like to ask you to follow us. And the Danger Islands in the Antarctic. On many maps which are not listed at all – because they are so small and inconspicuous. Seven of them there are in total. The largest of them, the Darwin island, measuring a kilometre in diameter, the smallest, Dixey Rock is, is just that: a small, although towering boulders in the ocean.

The British Explorer James Clark Ross would have missed the Islands, also almost, as he explored their surroundings in the year 1842, with his ships. It was shortly after Christmas, and because the Islands were surrounded, despite the southern summer of thick pack ice would be to run the “Erebus” and “Terror” almost. Therefore, the Name of the Islands that are here to see a photo of the American satellite “Landsat 7”.

The world of the Danger Islands, probably, until today, no note, had researchers Heather Lynch of Stony Brook University (US state of New York) traced there, not recently, 1.5 million penguins, which were captured in any statistics. For the classification: to be compared to the discoveries already, life is less than seven million penguins in the Antarctic: 143.000 gentoo penguins, 283.000 Emperor penguins, 1.3 million chinstrap penguins and 4.7 million Adéliepinguine. (An interactive map of all known colonies is available here.)


so It was a pretty spectacular find. “We thought that we knew where the penguins are,” explained Lynch in the past week at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in Washington. But then, learning to fell the science to satellite imagery, suspicious traces of The animals betrayed. By their excrement.

And this will be here now speak in Detail. Sorry that we have to expect.

If adélie penguins breed, then female and male animals alternate. You brooding, but always in the same place. Therefore, to collect there over the years, or to betray legacies. Properly many. There are Places on the Danger Islands, where the fear of have a lots of scientists like Michael Polito of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge (Louisiana) penguin poop from a period of 3,000 years collected.


And the penguin shit is growing not only in height, always when a new spawn comes to few in the colony, he grows also in the width. And this, in turn, on the satellite pictures. “We can’t see the individual animals, but their feces,” said Lynch.

As you knew where to look, to see the scientists also older satellite images. And also the previously unknown colonies were found to or of the feces of their residents.

On false-color images like this one “Landsat 8”-recording, the researcher can see the bird droppings

In the evaluation of the images, the researchers were able to identify a Trend: “The Population is large. We assume, however, that she used to be even bigger,” says Lynch. Since about 1990 there was a slow decline. “It is not catastrophic. We are talking of perhaps 10 to 15 percent less.”

“On the color it comes in”

but What was to blame for the negative? Had changed the food supply of the animals perhaps?

Here is Lynch’s former PhD student Casey young flesh, from the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Because of the deals with exactly these questions. In the infrared satellite images are also color differences between the penguin residues in different colonies can account for. “On the color it is,” says young flesh. If the penguins, as on the Antarctic Peninsula and in West Antarctica, rather of Krill feed on the feces orange red. The animals eat primarily fish as well as in the East-Antarctica – is he white rather.

researchers with samples

As it comes to the nutrition difference, don’t know researchers. Young flesh but wanted to get out, whether or not the color – and thus the food changes over time. He looked at all since 1982, the available images of the Danger Islands over the years, went for color changes in the feces. This showed A long-term Trend in the nutritional can’t prove. The decline in the Population, therefore, has probably other reasons.


in Order to come to this conclusion, had to bring the researchers, however, believe personal sacrifice. To be sure, whether the colors on the satellite images really draw conclusions on the diet of the animals, he had to investigate Pinguinkot at various locations in the Antarctic. Specifically, he analyzed the excrement on their content of the nitrogen isotope 15N. The accumulates in the food chain: the penguins, in the aftermath of a high concentration was found, had taken more fish, lower levels of 15N voice for a Krill diet.

The analysis of Isotopes has made Youngfelsh by the way, on Board the small expedition vessel “Hans Hansson”. In a windowless room. In order to study the penguins from a distance, you have to sometimes just before close. And you have to stench can endure.

Sam Yoon has many years of experiences in journalism. He has covered such areas as information technology, science, sports and politics. Yoon can be reached at 82-2-6956-6698.