A penguin "mega-colony" has just been discovered, far away from humans

A penguin

If you ever find yourself hanging out on Antarctica's Danger Islands, we hope you like penguins.

Scientists, including one LSU Professor, discovered a super-colony of more than one and a half million penguins during an expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula.

Heather Lynch, from Stony Brook University in NY, said that prior to the discovery, the Danger Islands were not known to be an important habitat for penguins.

Scientists have reported the discovery of a supercolony of Adelie penguins in Antarctica which host more than 1.5 million birds.

That was no easy feat; even at its warmest, these waters are full of thick sea ice that makes it hard for ships to make it through.

Scientists have just announced the discovery of a "supercolony" of Adélie penguins off the Antarctic Peninsula, which have lived undisturbed for almost 60 years.

Four years ago, Ms Lynch teamed up with Mathew Schwaller from NASA and examined satellite images that hinted at a curiously large number of penguins in the area. They counted 751,527 pairs of penguins in total.

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Scientists are eager to study the birds, to figure out how they've managed to survive in such large numbers all of these years, while their numbers plummeted on other parts of Antarctica.

After heading to the remote island in December 2015 to investigate, the professors, along with a seabird ecologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in MA and other experts, said they found hundreds of thousands of birds nesting in the rocky soil.

The Danger Islands, said the team, has felt the ravages of climate change less than western Antarctic zones, and knew very little human activity.

"We thought, 'Wow! If what we're seeing is true, these are going to be some of the largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world, and it's going to be well worth our while sending in an expedition to count them properly".

Researchers say the Danger Islands have been "largely spared" the environmental changes seen elsewhere in the Antarctic. The researchers also used a software to do the counting.

Because the archipelago where this new colony is located is so remote, the penguins there may have been protected from some of these factors.

Michael Polit of Louisiana State University said the discovery showed Adélie penguins were having a nicer time of things that was previously believed. "But it also reinforces the urgency to protect Antarctic waters from the dual threats of overfishing and climate change".

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