This is what one Adélie penguin looks like:
Now picture 3.6 million of those little guys. That’s how many Adélie penguins Antarctic scientists didn’t even know existed until they recently figured out how to better count the water-loving birds.
Previously, researchers believed there were just 2.3 million Adélie penguins living on the eastern Antarctic coastline. During a recent recount (which involves closely examining penguin feces), the scientists revised that number to 5.9 million, which totals between 14 and 16 million Adélies in all of Antarctica.
“The reason [the population count is] higher is we have incorporated the non-breeding component of the population,” explained Australian Antarctic Division seabird ecologist Dr. Louise Emmerson on Wednesday, as reported by The Huffington Post. “The non-breeders are essentially an invisible component of the population. The breeders are very well-behaved. They come to the islands and sit around on eggs and we can count them easily. But these non-breeders are foraging out in the water where we can’t see them. They may visit from time to time but they are essentially invisible to us.”
The update is significant for conservation efforts, since the scientists can tweak their understanding of how much krill and fish are needed to support the population. “An estimated 193,500 tons of krill and 18,800 tons of fish are eaten during the breeding season by Adélie penguins breeding in East Antarctica,” said Emmerson.
BY: Jeva Lange