Hidden Colony of Over 1 Million Penguins Discovered On Remote Antarctica Islands

Scientists have made a stunning discovery in Antarctica – they found a new “supercolony” of penguins whose species was believed to be declining over the past 40 years.

Surveillance of the remote chain of rocky islands off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula revealed more than ONE-AND-A-HALF MILLION Adelie penguins live there.

Finding the large number of Adélie penguins on what is known as Danger Islands is amazing news to researchers who have been noting steady decline in numbers of the penguins in other colonies on the continent.

“It’s kind of amazing that there’s been this really large number of penguins breeding on these small islands in a remote part of Antarctica that sort of slipped under the radar for so long,” Michael Polito, an oceanography professor at Louisiana State University, told CBC’s As It Happens host Carol Off.

“It’s exciting because it’s a very significant number from a global population standpoint.”

As result of the discovery, the documented global population of Adélie penguins just grew by 20 per cent.

Polito first heard of a colony in 2006 during a brief exhibition. However, when he visited the island, he only spent a few hours there and there were no penguins around as it was late in the breeding season. However, he did observe that there was a lot of penguin poop.

The researchers began to analyze satellite imagery of the region and noticed what appeared to be a lot of nests.

“I thought, holy cow, there are not only colonies, but huge colonies,” co-author Heather Lynch, a Stony Brook ecology professor, said in a press release. “How did we miss this really obvious thing?”

A team of researchers headed out on another expedition in 2015 and using drone footage they began to count nests. The scientists counted 751,527 nests. As there are two penguins per average nest, they came up with an estimated 1,503,054 previously undiscovered birds. It’s a 20 per cent increase in global population.

The scientists are happy with the news, but not celebrating just yet. The population of penguins has been steadily declining over the past 40 years with the melting of sea ice on the western side of the Antarctic peninsula.

The researchers believe, however, the Danger Islands penguins have been protected from a decline of number because they are farther north and closer to the icy Weddell Sea. That doesn’t mean they won’t be affected by climate change.

“If we look at the future projections of climate change and the pace of climate change, even areas like the Danger Islands have the potential to be negatively affected,” Polito said. “So I think this is exciting and good news for now but, of course, we have to look to the future.”

Check out some of the footage from researchers in the video below and share this exciting discovery with your friends.