Emperor penguins are common to Antarctica and are one of the species most commonly associated with the ice-covered environment. Now scientists, using advanced satellites, have calculated that the numbers of penguins are far higher than previously thought.
By using advanced satellite imaging scientists have estimated that the population of Emperor Penguin found in Antarctica are almost twice that of previous estimates. The study was led by Peter T. Fretwell and the findings were published in the Public Library of Science journal.
The scientific team undertook a satellite scan of Antarctica’s coastline using medium- to high-resolution satellite imagery. The images were captured during the 2009 emperor penguin breeding season. The results have taken several years to fully analyse. The results showed a total of 46 penguin colonies. Of these, several were found in locations not previously identified. Based on emperor penguin breeding rates, it is estimated that the total population of penguins is around 595,000.
The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica. The Emperor Penguin is perhaps best known for the sequence of journeys adults make each year in order to mate and to feed their offspring. The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, it treks 50–120 km (31–75 miles) over the ice to breeding colonies which may include thousands of individuals.
However, Emperor Penguins are still at risk from climate change, according to P. Dee Boersma of the University of Washington, Seattle. He is quoted in Science Now as saying “Unfortunately with climate warming and variation, we are likely to be studying the decline of emperor penguins.”
It is hoped that further advances with satellite imaging will help to keep track of Emperor Penguin numbers over time.