Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Image of the Day



Silo “The Torpedo” chinstrap from Central Park Zoo is a penguin with a mission. With his paddle-shaped wings, powerful flight muscles, and streamlined body, he can swim through the water at speeds up to 15 miles per hour—quadruple the speed of the fastest human swimmer—and cover long distances. Moving across land on two feet, penguins appear much less graceful, but when they tire of the waddle, they simply drop onto their bellies, sliding toboggan-style across the ice and snowfields. This allows them to conserve energy on the long march toward their inland breeding grounds, while still moving relatively quickly.

If only the chinstraps could learn to use a sled, they’d make great candidates for skeleton sledding—a face-first plunge down an icy track that requires a combination of aerodynamic agility and sheer gall.

Story and Picture courtesy of Wildlife Conservation Society @
http://www.wcs.org/353624/goingforthegold

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Images of the Day


Rockhopper Penguin in flight, originally uploaded by merigan.

New Island in the Falklands---Southern Rockhopper




Rockhopper Penguin, originally uploaded by Sh0rty.


Northern Rockhopper

Monday, December 29, 2008

Image of the Day


Uploaded on February 3, 2008 by leesviewfinder on Flickr

Courting King penguins, originally uploaded by Antarctic M.

Courtship rituals are different for each species of penguin--these kings believe in lots of canoodling. :)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Image of the Day


Penguin, originally uploaded by mullers_za (Sonja).

[Poster] was sitting with friend who was fishing off the Saldanha Bay Coast when this little fellow decided to entertain [them] with his bathing ritual.

Interesting facts about penguins:

1. Penguins have knees.

2. Penguins' wings cannot bend due to the fact the bones in their wings have fused together to make a sort of stiff paddle.

3. There are exactly 17 species of penguins known. Each have different attributes, such as the smallest penguin to areas of pink around their eyes.

4. Most penguins swim at a speed of 15 mph in the water. The average Olympic swimmer can only swim around 5 mph.

5. The fastest species of penguin is the Gentoo, which can swim up to 17 miles per hour.

6. Most penguins live only in the Southern Hemisphere in the wild, even reaching up to Galapagos Island. The only ones in the Northern Hemisphere live at the uppermost part of the Galapagos Island

7. There are seventeen different species.

8. Penguins have a form of camouflage called counter shading. When predators look down in the water, they see the dark of water deep down. Penguins have black backs in order to not be seen from the top. Seen from below, predators see the light of the sun, so the penguins have white bellies to not be seen there.

9. The smallest penguin, called the Fairy Penguin, lives in Australia.

10. Penguins have a layer of air trapped in between their water-proof feathers that provides buoyancy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday Videos (a day late)





Image of the Day


Baby Rock Hopper Penguin, originally uploaded by silverlutra.

A young Northern Rockhopper Penguin who is only beginning to sprout the trademark yellow feathers that adorn the crowns of these birds. Oddly enough, rockhopper chicks look amazingly non-penguin until they mature.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Image of the Day

Adelie Penguins' molting. Notice the chick on the right--it is his/her first molt. Juveniles are easy to spot--what are the differences?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Image of the Day


Act Like a Penguin, originally uploaded by devonhaupt.

Royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli)




Facts
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Sphenisciformes
Family Spheniscidae
Genus Eudyptes (1)
Size Total length: 70 cm (2)
Status:

Classified as Vulnerable (VU A1be+2be, C1) on the IUCN Red List 2003 (1)

Description

Royal penguins differ from the other crested penguins by having white or pale grey faces and chins (3). They have black crowns, backs and flippers flecked with white; short, stubby orange bills and sulphur-yellow crests above the eyes that join at the top of the head (4). Female birds are slightly smaller than the males, but otherwise, the sexes are similar (5). Royal penguins are sometimes confused with the Macaroni penguin (black chin and face), and some authorities consider the Royal a subspecies of the Macaroni (3).

Range

Royal penguins are migratory birds and outside of the breeding season are believed to spend their time in the southern seas between Australia and Antarctica. Their main breeding site is on Macquarie Island, situated roughly half-way between Tasmania and Antarctica, and managed by the Australian state of Tasmania (6). However, they were also recorded in the past as breeding in smaller numbers on New Zealand's South Island and Campbell Island (4).

Habitat

The most important land habitat for the Royal penguin is Macquarie Island, which is dotted with rocks, tussock grass and small shrubs. The birds spend about seven months of the year in the coastal waters around this island (6).

Biology

The Royal penguins' breeding season extends from September to March and starts with the male birds coming ashore on Macquarie Island to build their nests, which are lined with grass and stones (5). The females arrive a couple of weeks later and courtship takes place. Males swing their heads up and down and call to encourage the females to become receptive to mating (5). Eventually, two eggs are laid at the end of October, the second egg being the only one that is usually incubated (5).

Royal penguins are monogamous and often form large colonies of up to 500,000 birds (5), together with the closely related rockhopper penguins. The nests are usually placed a few hundred metres from the sea and the birds make access routes through the tussock grass (4). Incubation lasts from 30-40 days (5), after which the male guards the chick for up to three weeks while the female provides food (4) (5). After this period, the demands of the chick make it necessary for both parents to collect food, and the chicks usually gather together in small crèches (4).

Royal penguins feed largely on krill, small shrimp-like crustaceans, the rest of their diet comprising fish and squid. The parent birds regurgitate partially-digested food from their stomachs to feed their growing youngster (2). When it reaches some 70 days old, the chick will have fledged and can begin to fend for itself. It becomes sexually mature at one year (5).

Threats

Once the subject of a lucrative oil industry in the latter part of the 19th century, Royal penguins are now protected at their breeding sites (5). The main threats come from south polar skuas, Stercorarius maccormicki, which take both eggs and unprotected young (4). There is an additional risk from the fact that as the birds' breeding range is so restricted, a natural or man-made disaster could easily wipe out this species (5).

Conservation

The current world population of the Royal penguin is believed to be stable at around 850,000 pairs (2) (5). There are a number of studies taking place to discover more about the migratory habits of the bird, and their main breeding site, Macquarie Island, enjoys protected status from the Tasmanian government.

Further Information

International Penguin Conservation:
http://www.penguins.cl/royal-penguins.htm

Birdlife International (2003) Birdlife's on-line World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Version 2.0. Cambridge, UK: Birdlife International:
http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3858&m=0

References

1. IUCN Red List (April, 2004)
http://www.redlist.org
2. International Penguin Conservation (April, 2004)
http://www.penguins.cl/royal-penguins.htm
3. Birdlife International (2003) Birdlife's on-line World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Version 2.0. Cambridge, UK: Birdlife International (April, 2004)
http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3858&m=0
4. Sparks, J. and Soper, T. (1968) Penguins. David and Charles, Newton Abbott.
5. Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (April, 2004)
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Eudyptes_schlegeli.html
6. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Tasmanian Government (April, 2004)
http://www.dpiwe.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/WebPages/UTAR-52X96F?open

Information courtesy of ARKive@
http://www.arkive.org/royal-penguin/eudyptes-schlegeli/info.html

Pictures from Flickr

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Polygamy, Parental Care in Birds Linked to Dino Ancestors



Science News

Polygamy, Paternal Care In Birds Linked To Dinosaur Ancestors

ScienceDaily (Dec. 19, 2008) — Sure, they're polygamous, but male emus and several other ground-dwelling birds also are devoted dads, serving as the sole incubators and caregivers to oversized broods from multiple mothers. It is rare behavior, but research described in the Dec. 19 Science found that it runs in this avian family, all the way back to its dinosaur ancestors.

Scientists had long wondered about the origins of polygamy and paternal care patterns among modern-day Paleognathes -- an ancient avian lineage that branched off soon after birds evolved from dinosaurs and includes ostriches, emus and tinamous. No such reproductive behavior exists among the vast majority of other vertebrates. Males contribute to parental care in less than 5 percent of mammal and non-avian reptile species, and while more than 90 percent of bird species co-parent to some degree, it is only among the Paleognathes that both polygamy and paternal care rule.

Now, in a new paper, paleobiologist Gregory M. Erickson of The Florida State University and researchers from three other institutions connect the evolutionary dots linking the polygamous, paternal reproductive patterns of extant (living) birds to the behavior of their extinct dinosaur kin.

"In those cases where adult dinosaurs have been found on top of nests, we found that the volume or mass of the egg clutch (total number of eggs in the nest) is very large relative to the size of the nesting animals," Erickson said. "This suggests multiple females contributed the eggs and the male guarded them. Notably, the ratio of egg volumes to the nesting animal's size is consistent with those in living birds where the male is the sole or primary nest attendant."

The researchers now had their link from the theropod dinosaurs (omnivores and carnivores that walked on two hind legs with bird-like feet) to the polygamy and nesting scenarios exhibited by their avian descendants, according to David Varricchio of Montana State, the study's principal investigator.

But to test the theory, Varricchio needed to determine the sex of the brooding dinosaurs whose bones have been found atop those communal nests.

For that, he turned to Erickson at Florida State, a renowned expert in dinosaur paleobiology.

Erickson examined the bone microstructure of tibiae (shin bones), femora (thigh bones) and metatarsus (ankle bones) from oviraptorids and deinonychosaurs (Jurrasic Park "raptors") -- small theropod dinosaurs whose adult skeletons have been repeatedly discovered in brooding postures atop nests containing dozens of large eggs.

The key was what he didn't find in the bones: They showed no signs whatsoever of the maternal and reproductively associated microscopic features common to living non-Paleognath bird groups, extinct non-avian dinosaurs or living reptiles.

"I found no evidence of medullary bone (the extra bone laid down by breeding female birds and dinosaurs to make eggs) or extensive bone resorbtion (the means by which female reptiles such as crocodiles acquire mineral salts to make eggs)," Erickson said. "This is consistent with the brooding dinosaurs being males."

Thus, the researchers had confirmation that the dinosaurs found in nests with large egg clutches were polygamistic males and the source of the peculiar avian behavior.

Moreover, those brooding dinosaurs were fathers -- and today's emus, rheas and tinamous owe their paternal care model to them.

Florida State University. "Polygamy, Paternal Care In Birds Linked To Dinosaur Ancestors." ScienceDaily 19 December 2008. 20 December 2008 .

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Video and Image of the Day--Molting


Flickr Uploaded on June 8, 2006 by Graham Racher

These African Penguin chicks are experiencing their first molt.



Penguin Feathers

1. Shiny feathers uniformly overlap to cover a penguin's skin (del Hoyo, et al., 1992). Feathers are highly specialized-short, broad, and closely spaced, helping to keep water away from the skin. Tufts of down on the feather shafts contribute to the insulative properties of the feathers.

2. Penguins have more feathers than most other birds, with about 70 feathers per square inch.

3. Most penguin species go through one complete molt (shed their feathers) each year, usually after the breeding season. The exception is the Galapagos penguin, which usually goes through two molts annually (del Hoyo, et al., 1992).

a. Molting is an essential function, as feathers wear out during the year. Feathers become worn when penguins rub against each other, come in contact with the ground and water, and regularly preen (clean, rearrange, and oil) their feathers (Sparks and Soper, 1987).

b. The new feather grows under the old one, pushing it out. The old feather does not fall out until the new one is completely in place. The molt is patchy and can give individual penguins a scruffy look (del Hoyo, et al., 1992).

c. During the molt, feathers lose some of their insulating and waterproofing capabilities, and penguins stay out of the water until their plumage is restored to optimum condition (del Hoyo, et al., 1992; Sparks and Soper, 1987).

d. Depending on the species, the average length of the molt varies from 13 days for the Galapagos penguin to 34 for the emperor penguin (del Hoyo, et al., 1992).

e. Because penguins don't enter the water to feed during a molt, they fast. Before their molt, they build a fat layer, which provides energy until the molt is over (del Hoyo, et al., 1992).

Information courtesy of Seaworld @
http://www.seaworld.org/infobooks/Penguins/physical.html

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Images of the Day



Pygoscelis papua 02, originally uploaded by jquental.

The Two subspecies of Gentoo Penguin



Pygoscelis papau ellsworthii (at the top and the smaller of the two) and Pygoscelis papau papau (on the bottom).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bush Admin Denies Endangered Species Protection for Emperor Penguins!



For Immediate Release, December 17, 2008

Contact: Brendan Cummings, Center for Biological Diversity, (951) 768-8301

Bush Administration Denies Endangered Species Act Protection for
Emperor Penguin; Ice-Dependent Species Imperiled by Global Warming
Seven Other Penguin Species Proposed for Listing As Threatened


SAN FRANCISCO— The Bush administration today denied protection for the emperor penguin under the Endangered Species Act. The emperor penguin, the most ice-dependant of all penguin species, is threatened by global warming and the consequent loss of its sea-ice habitat, as well as declining food availability wrought by the warming ocean off Antarctica. Today’s decision, made by the Department of the Interior in response to a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity , concluded that global warming impacts were too “uncertain” to warrant protecting the species. The Administration also denied protection for two other penguin species, while proposing protection for seven other species.

“Right now penguins are marching towards extinction due to the impacts of global warming,” said Shaye Wolf, a seabird biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Protecting penguins under the Endangered Species Act is an essential step toward saving them. For the species proposed for listing, today’s decision is an important step forward. However, for the emperor penguin, it is a step closer to extinction.”

In today’s decision, to be published in Thursday’s Federal Register, the African penguin, yellow-eyed penguin, white-flippered penguin, Fiordland crested penguin, Humboldt penguin, and erect-crested penguin were proposed for listing as threatened species. The Administration also proposed listing of a portion of the range of the southern rockhopper penguin. However, the Interior Department denied listing for the majority of the range of the southern rockhopper penguin, as well as for the northern rockhopper penguin, macaroni penguin, and emperor penguin.

Abnormally warm ocean temperatures and diminished sea ice have wreaked havoc on the penguins’ foods supply. Less food has led to population declines in penguin species ranging from the southern rockhopper and Humboldt penguins of the islands off South America, and the African penguin in southern Africa, to the emperor penguin in Antarctica. The ocean conditions causing these declines have been linked by scientists to global warming and are projected to intensify in the coming decades.

Krill, an essential food source not just for penguins but also for whales and seals, has declined by as much as 80 percent since the 1970s over large areas of the Southern Ocean. Scientists have linked the ocean conditions causing these declines to global warming and loss of sea ice. The emperor penguin colony at Pointe Geologie, featured in the film “ March of the Penguins,” has declined by more than 50 percent due to global warming.

Many penguin species also are harmed by industrial fisheries, either directly, such as when individual penguins are caught and killed in trawls, nets and longlines; or indirectly, through the depletion of essential prey species such as anchovy and krill. Overfishing by industrial fishing fleets plays a prominent role in the hit movie “Happy Feet,” which features two of the species denied protection today, the emperor and rockhopper penguins.

Listing under the Endangered Species Act will provide broad protection to these penguins, including a requirement that federal agencies ensure that any action carried out, authorized, or funded by the U.S. government will not “jeopardize the continued existence” of the penguin species. For example, if penguins are listed, future approval of fishing permits for U.S.-flagged vessels operating on the high seas would require analysis and minimization of impacts on the listed penguins. The Act also has an important role to play in reducing greenhouse gas pollution by compelling federal agencies to look at the impact of the emissions generated by their activities on listed species and to adopt solutions to reduce them.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition in November 2006 to list 12 penguin species as threatened or endangered. Ultimately, the Department of Interior initiated status reviews of 10 of 12 penguin species, but only issued today’s findings under court order. The agency has one year to finalize the listing decision for the seven penguins proposed for listing. The decision to deny protection for the emperor, rockhopper and macaroni penguins can be challenged in court.

“Penguin populations are in jeopardy and we can’t afford to further delay protections,” said Brendan Cummings, oceans program director at the Center. “The denial of protection for the emperor penguin ignores the science on global warming and ignores the law. We are confident it will be overturned by either the courts or the new administration.”

For more information on penguins and a link to the federal petition, please see: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/penguins/index.html

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

# # #

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2008/penguins-12-16-2008.html

Image of the Day 2


penguin 5, originally uploaded by gladz:).

Closeup :)

Image of the Day


penguin 10, originally uploaded by gladz:).

Penguins of the Southern Hemisphere

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Wonderful Discovery!


Penguin guarding its egg, originally uploaded by udderlyjodi.



Once in a great while, something comes along that reaffirms that good writing is not on the endangered species list (such as some of our penguins). Once in a while, that good writer emerges from the fold and by the telling of a fictional tale, a great truth is revealed. Such is the case with John Yunker.

John contacted me a few days ago, and humbly offered his story for me to read. I had planned to scan it, as these days, a literary penguin has much to do, but I found myself immersed in the plot and the technique. I could not stop reading; goodness, but I haven't seen writing like this in a very long time. You all, my readers, will be just as pleased as I was and still am.

The short story, as you may have guessed, concerns our character as a response to a need that necessitates sacrifice. Do we do our part? Is it enough? Shouldn't we do more? What stops us? Fear of change or fear of our inner selves? Can we assume the burden of protection for smaller lives? So many questions---all raised within one short story. If this penguin was still teaching, all of her chicks would be reading this story; indeed, the story won the Phoebe 2008 Fiction Prize and that's quite an honor.

So, without further ado, I present you with three links: the first link is to the .pdf of the story, which you can download and read at your leisure, the second link is to John's blog, and the last link is to Dr. Boersma's site. Once you read the story, you'll understand the validity of including the last one.

1. The Tourist Trail by John Yonker HERE

2. John's blog is HERE

3. Dr. Boersma's Site, for Penguin Research at Punta Tombo, is HERE

Let's hope that a publisher realizes what a find John is, as this short story has all the makings of a great novel for our time. And lastly, John--keep us updated on what's happening with you. I'm sure your new and ever growing fanbase will be very appreciative. :)

~~~~~~ wiinterrr~~~~~~

Image of the Day


Melanistic King Penguin 1, originally uploaded by PeterVermont.

Color variation also occurs in all species of penguin. A recessive gene produced this melanistic King Penguin. The poster states it's rarity by noticing that out of 150,000 penguins in a particular rookery, this was the only melanistic penguin.

Monday, December 15, 2008

African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)


Facts

Also known as: jackass penguin
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Sphenisciformes
Family Spheniscidae
Genus Spheniscus (1)
Size Length: 60 - 70 cm (2)
Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1). Listed on Appendix II of CITES (3), and Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (4).

Description

The African penguin is a medium-sized penguin, and the only species breeding on the African continent (5). Penguins have a robust, heavyset body and this species are black on the back and white below, with variable black markings on the breast and belly (2). Juvenile plumage is slate blue on the upper surface and this gradually turns darker, developing the adult black-and-white facial pattern in the second or third year. Penguins have small muscles at the base of each feather that enable them to be held tightly against the body whilst in water, forming a waterproof layer; alternatively, on land they are held erect, trapping an insulating layer of air around the body (5). These penguins are also known as ‘jackass penguins' due to their loud, braying call (6).

Range

Found in southern Africa, these penguins are known to breed on 24 islands between Hollamsbird Island, Namibia and Bird Island in Algoa Bay, South Africa (2).
UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre View a distribution map for this species at UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Habitat

African penguins are generally found within 40 kilometres of the coast, emerging onto rocky offshore islands to breed, rest and moult (2).

Biology

African penguins are colonial breeders with pairs returning to the same site year after year. Unusually, there is no fixed breeding season although nesting peaks in Namibia between November and December and in South Africa between March and May. Nests are situated in burrows or depressions under boulders and bushes where they will receive some protection from the potentially harsh temperatures (5). The clutch size is usually two and both parents take it in turns to incubate the eggs for a period of about 40 days; penguins have a bare patch of skin on the lower abdomen (known as the ‘brood patch'), which allows greater transfer of heat to the eggs. Following hatching, the adults will continue to guard the chicks until they are about 30 days old, regurgitating food straight from their stomach following foraging trips. Chicks are then left alone in crèches whilst their parents forage; at between 60 and 130 days old they develop juvenile plumage and leave the colony (5).

These penguins feed on fish such as anchovies (Engraulis capensis) and sardines (Sardinops sagax) (2). Adapted for their aquatic lifestyle, African penguins can reach speeds of 20 kilometres per hour in the water and range from 30 to 70 kilometres in a single trip; average dives last for 2.5 minutes, reaching depths of 60 metres. Penguins have waterproof coats that need to be constantly maintained by preening, when a waxy substance is distributed from the base of the tail. Even with these measures, their plumage is replaced yearly and African penguins come ashore to moult over 20 days between November and January in South Africa and between April and May in Namibia (5).

Threats

The population of African penguins has declined and it is estimated that its current size is a mere 10 percent of what it was at the turn of the 20th Century. Originally the fall in numbers was the result of the over-collection of eggs for food, and disturbance caused by the collection of guano for fertiliser. Today, however, depleted fish stocks due to over-fishing, and the risk of oil pollution are the most pertinent threats to the survival of this species (5); a recent oil spill affected around 40 percent of the population. Predation by Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus) and competition with them for food and breeding sites, as well as shark predation, has also had severe effects on population numbers (2).

Conservation

The African penguin is protected by its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3), and on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) (4). All of the breeding areas in South Africa are protected as National Parks or Nature Reserves and the collection of guano or eggs is no longer permitted. The recovery of rescued oiled birds has also been shown to be successful. Populations need further monitoring and the possibility of conserving fish stocks is under investigation, amongst other measures, if the future of Africa's only penguin is to be secured (2).

Authentication

Authenticated (01/06/05) by Samantha Petersen, Seabird Conservation Programme Manager, BirdLife South Africa.
http://www.birdlife.org.za/index.cfm

References

1. IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
http://www.iucnredlist.org
2. BirdLife International (April, 2003)
http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3861&m=0
3. CITES (April, 2003)
http://www.cites.org
4. Global Register of Migratory Species (March, 2008)
http://www.groms.de
5. International Penguin Conservation (April, 2003)
http://www.penguins.cl
6. Animal Diversity Web (April, 2003)
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/spheniscus/s._demersus$narrative.html

All info from ARKive @

http://www.arkive.org/african-penguin/spheniscus-demersus/info.html

SLAC Lab Scans Archeopteryx



Darwin's Dinobird Fossil Analyzed at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

December 11, 2008

Menlo Park, Calif.—A keystone of evolutionary history, the Thermopolis Archaeopteryx fossil, has come to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to undergo a revolutionary type of analysis. Using intense X-ray beams, scientists will search for characteristics of the "dinobird" that have eluded all previous scientific analyses.

Researchers at SLAC's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) are attempting to uncover secrets of the Archaeopteryx hidden from view since the creature sank to the bottom of a shallow lagoon and became entombed in limestone some 150 million years ago. To do this, they are using light source technology developed by DOE and primarily utilized for advanced energy-related research in materials science, biology, and other fields. Only ten Archaeopteryx fossils have been found and studied. These specimens have undergone extensive visual analyses and even CT scans in the past, but never anything as comprehensive as the X-ray imaging researchers are utilizing at SSRL. Here, researchers are making the first maps of the chemical elements hidden within one of the best preserved specimens, possibly including remnants of soft tissue—not just bone. Approximately 16 by 16 inches (40 by 40 centimeters) in size, the Thermopolis specimen was originally discovered near Solnhofen, Germany, and is now owned by the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, located in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

Archaeopteryx holds a unique place in history. A century and a half ago, just a year after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, the discovery of this fossilized half-dinosaur/half-bird species provided the strongest evidence yet for the theory of evolution.

"If you want to find a single fossil which is a missing link in the evolution of dinosaurs into birds, this is it," said University of Manchester paleontologist Phil Manning. "It's a bird with sharp teeth, claws and a long bony tail. If you were to freeze-frame evolution, you would end up with Archaeopteryx."

However, scientists are still learning about Archaeopteryx. By tuning SSRL's hair-thin X-ray beam to specific energies and sweeping it across the fossil, researchers will reveal detailed maps of the chemical remains. This technique, called X-ray fluorescence imaging, is more commonly applied to very small samples, but has recently been used on historical documents including the Archimedes Palimpsest and a van Gogh painting. Its application to fossils, which may expose trace evidence of soft tissue never before seen, was suggested by Bob Morton of the Children of the Middle Waters Institute.

"We were intrigued by the possibility of using X-ray fluorescence imaging on fossils 20 years ago," Morton said. "Now with the help of intense X-rays at SSRL, it's become feasible. We're ready to be surprised and amazed."

SSRL scientist Uwe Bergmann added: "What you normally can't see are the chemical elements from the original organism that might still be present in the fossil. Using X-ray fluorescence imaging, we can bring these elements to light, getting a better look at the fossil and learning more about the original animal. We are absolutely thrilled to get this rare chance to look at Archaeopteryx."

In addition to offering an entirely new view on a long-extinct animal, this work may also reveal more about fossilization itself. By understanding how fossilization occurs and what exactly is preserved in the process, researchers will be able to deduce much more about ancient organisms and evolution.

"This is the very infancy of this new scientific method," said paleontologist Peter Larson of the Black Hills Institute in South Dakota. "We don't even know enough about this to know the right questions to ask yet. All of a sudden, we can look at fossils in a very different and new way."

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy. The laboratory's mission is to explore the frontiers of photon science, astrophysics, and accelerator and particle physics in service to the nation and the world. The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource is a national user facility which provides synchrotron radiation for research in chemistry, biology, physics and materials science to over two thousand users each year.

by Kelen Tuttle

Story and image courtesy of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory @

http://home.slac.stanford.edu/pressreleases/2008/20081211.htm

Image of the Day


Casey in peguin lineup, originally uploaded by lurking444.

Guess which penguin is the extinct one? :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Color of Feathers in Dinos (Image of the Day, too)



What Color Were Feathered Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Birds?

fossil featherA new study of fossilized bird feathers from 100 million years ago has determined that the broad stripes visible on the feathers do indicate the color of that ancient bird’s plumage. Researchers say the discovery may allow them to reconstruct the colors of other prehistoric birds and even feathered dinosaurs.

The fossil feathers had an obvious striped pattern but its origin had long been debated, according to Professor [Mike] Benton. “The banding looks so life-like that it can’t be geological in origin - it has to be biological,” he said. “But then how do you square that with the well-known fact that the majority of organic molecules decay in thousands of years?” [BBC News].

For the study, which was published in Biology Letters [subscription required], researchers examined the dark bands with an electron microscope and saw sausage-shaped structures that had previously been interpreted as fossilized remains of bacteria. However, researchers realized that modern bird feathers have similar structures called melanosomes, which are tiny organelles found inside pigment cells that produce melanin pigment. Melanin is what determines our hair, eye and skin color and gives birds’ feathers their spectacular range of hues [LiveScience]. The lighter areas of the ancient feathers didn’t have similar structures, leading researchers to confirm that the long-dead bird had black and white stripes.

Study coauthor Derek Briggs says the next step is to investigate the structure of fossilized feathers from an ancient bird thought to be closely related to a living bird with varied and colourful plumage. “With luck the microstructure of feathers from different parts of the fossil will vary corresponding to different original colours,” says Briggs [Nature News]. The team believes it may be able to distinguish between brown, red, and iridescent colors, and says the technique may work on ancient fur, as well.

Any discoveries will be of interest to artists who can use the findings to create more accurate pictures of prehistoric beasts, but researchers say there’s also a scientific motivator. [K]nowing the colour of dinosaur plumage could reveal something about their daily lives and ecology, [coauthor Jakob] Vinther says. “We might also be able to tell whether they have sexual dimorphisms – whether males were more spectacularly coloured than females,” he says [New Scientist].

Check out spectacular pictures of feathered dinosaur fossils in the DISCOVER feature, “The Dragons of Liaoning.”

Image: Vinther et al.

Story from Discover Magazine @

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2008/07/09/what-color-were-feathered-dinosaurs-and-prehistoric-birds/

Image of the Day




Thursday, 8 November 2007 Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News

Dinosaurs had a similar breathing mechanism to modern diving birds, like penguins
(Source: iStockphoto)

Meat-loving dinosaurs didn't huff and puff while chasing their prey, according to a new study that concludes dinosaur breathing was smooth, like that of present-day diving birds.

The study, published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, presents the first explanation for how carnivorous dinosaurs breathed.

The researchers also believe large herbivorous dinosaurs, such as Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus, also breathed like birds.

"Dinosaurs probably possessed a breathing mechanism that functioned like bellows," says lead author Dr Jonathan Codd, from the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester.

"It would have operated smoothly, allowing them to chase after prey at around [65 kilometres per hour] without running out of breath."

Codd and his team studied the fossilised remains of maniraptoran dinosaurs, such as Oviraptor philoceratops, Velociraptor mongoliensis and the tiny Microraptor zhaoianus.

He and his colleagues also looked at fossils of extinct birds from the dinosaur era, including the most primitive known bird, Archaeopteryx, as well as bones from modern birds and crocodiles.

The scientists focused on tiny bones called 'uncinate processes', which play an important role in how modern birds breathe.

Breathing through the nose

Birds breathe with their mouths closed, with air travelling through the nasal cavity before filling the lungs and multiple air sacs.

Air can flow in and out due to moving bones, including the uncinate processes, which help to push the ribs outward, expanding the chest. If a bird couldn't move its ribs, it would suffocate.

Dinosaurs, like modern birds and crocodiles, were found to have the tiny, L-shaped uncinate processes that act as levers, moving the ribs and sternum in and out.

Efficient breathing

Diving birds and dinosaurs were found to have especially long levers, indicating very efficient breathing.

"At first, nobody even knew what role these structures played in modern birds," Codd says.

"They're small and not particularly exciting to look at, so many people commonly misidentified them as rib bones poking out from the bird's back."

Like a trained singer

Since the dinosaur levers would have also pumped their abdomens full of air, dinosaurs also probably had the breath power of a trained singer who tries to fill his or her entire body, especially the abdomen, with air.

A big difference, however, is that dinosaurs would have had two exhalations for every inhalation, in contrast to our single 'breathe in, breathe out' pattern, says Codd.

Professor David Carrier, an expert on bird and mammal breathing and locomotion from the University of Utah, says the researchers could be right.

"The function of uncinate processes, as proposed by Codd and collaborators, clearly could have facilitated the hypothesised ... breathing mechanism of theropod dinosaurs."

Bad breath?

Dinosaurs may have had respiratory systems similar to fowls, but did they have foul breath?

"It's quite likely," says Codd. "They possessed multiple teeth that would have trapped bits of rotting meat."

Story and image courtesy of ABC.net Science @
http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2007/11/08/2092731.htm?site=science&topic=health

Image of the Day (Friday)



Nomingia gobiensis, shown with feathers
Thomas P. Hop and Mark J. Orsen of Protein Research Laboratories Inc of Seattle, Washington have theorized that dinosaurs that mutated to produce large feathers were better able to protect their eggs from heat and cold. This is well demonstrated by the above illustrations showing the difference in the amount of protection provided by a parent with no feathers and one with lots of them. This led to feather dinosaurs having a higher survival rate and far more descendents - a classic case of "survival of the fittest." Flight may have been a byproduct of this new characteristic.

From Dinosaur World @
http://www.dinosaur-world.com/feathered_dinosaurs/brooding_dinosaurs.htm

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Friday Videos! (Magels-think Magels)





Image of the Day


Magellanic Penguins, originally uploaded by dreamsINdigital.

This is getting real about making a penguin feel at home. These little magels at the San Fran Zoo think penguin biology is a good thing. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Penguin Update from Dr. Boersma



Penguin_Update
Greetings!

Long-term studies allow us to understand a penguin’s world. For example, penguin #997 is at least 25 years old and probably more than 30. Every time I see him I’m thrilled that he is alive and well. He was banded on October 16, 1983 as an adult in one of our marked nests and we see him regularly:
· In 1984, 997 returned to the nest where he was banded. He also spent time in a nearby nest possibly hedging his bets. However, neither his nests nor his good looks attracted a mate that year.
· In 1985, he moved to another nest where a female joined him, and they raised a chick.
· In 1986, he was alone.
· In 1990, he moved to a burrow nest, a female joined him, and they raised a chick.
· In 1991, a new female joined him, and on October 11 she laid an egg. The next day his mate from the previous year returned, kicked out the new female, sat on the egg, and eight days later laid her own eggs. The female sat on all three eggs, but late in incubation the burrow collapsed, and the egg laid by the interloping female was lost. A fight in December to take over the burrow killed their two newly hatched chicks.
· The next year, 1992, was without drama and the pair raised two chicks. In their eight years together they raised nine chicks, an impressive record!
· In 1999, another female mated with 997, but they were unsuccessful.
· In October 2008, 997 was back wandering among nests within 30 feet of where he's been for the last 25 years. He spent a couple of days trying to dig a burrow, then moved into a bush nest where I took his picture.

In the 25 years we have been watching 997, he has been in 16 different nests. It has been 11 years since he raised a chick. Apparently, he tries hard to attract females, but often his nests have little shade. Unless he gets a well-shaded nest, he is likely to continue wandering among his nests without any females giving him a second look. But he still looks handsome to me!

Because of your generous donations, we have been able to track penguins such as 997 for over 25 years. Having long-term information about the lives of penguins will enable us to better help them combat the looming challenges ahead: the potential development of an anchovy fishery, drastic increases in tourism, and over-fishing.

Please consider making a donation today. The penguins need advocates and in these difficult financial times we need your help more than ever to follow the lives of penguins. Your support allows us to fund student researchers both in the field and back in Seattle as they track penguins and buy research equipment such as satellite tags, scales, and bands. Join us as we educate the next generation of conservation biologists and learn about the world of penguins.

Donate online:
Go to http://biology.washington.edu

, click on the "Support Biology" link and then select "Additional Funds." Scroll down to the "Friends of the Penguins" link. If you prefer to donate through the Wildlife Conservation Fund, you may do it online at http://www.wcs.org/

getinvolved/donations; please direct funds to "The Penguin Project".

Donate by mail:
To donate by check, make it payable to "The Penguin Project" and mail it to

The Penguin Project
Kincaid 23, Box 351800
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195

Thank you in advance for your support!

Regards,
Dee

P. Dee Boersma, Ph.D
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington
USA

NOTE from wiinterrr, your hostess:

As a student, I realize that for most other penguin students, this time of the year is fairly tight on one's krill or herring budget, but I am making a pledge to support Dr. Boersma as soon as financial aid arrives in January. For those of you who are able to spend, however judiciously now, please think about supporting this very worthy cause. The more we know about penguins, the better we can help them stay alive and thrive. After all, my feathered friends, what a pitiful place the world would be without penguins.

(Cross posted to wiinterrr's day blog)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

Velociraptors and Penguins: Much in Common



Dinosaurs breathed like penguinshttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7081166.stm
By Helen Briggs
Science reporter, BBC News

Dinosaurs like Velociraptors owe their fearsome reputation to the way they breathed, according to a UK study.

They had one of the most efficient respiratory systems of all animals, similar to that of modern diving birds like penguins, fossil evidence shows.

It fuelled their bodies with oxygen for the task of sprinting after prey, say researchers at Manchester University.

The bipedal meat-eaters, the therapods, had air sacs ventilated by tiny bones that moved the ribcage up and down.

"Finding these structures in modern birds and their extinct dinosaur ancestors suggests that these running dinosaurs had an efficient respiratory system and supports the theory that they were highly active animals that could run relatively quickly when pursuing their prey," said Dr Jonathan Codd, who led the research.

"It provides a mechanism for facilitating avian-like breathing in non-avian dinosaurs and it was there long before the evolution of flight occurred," he told BBC News.

Bony projections

Modern-day birds have a highly specialised respiratory system, made up of a small rigid lung and around nine air sacs.

The bellows-like movement of the sternum and ribs moves air through the system.

Bony projections on the ribcage known as uncinate processes play an important role in both respiration and locomotion.

The small bones act as levers to move the ribs and sternum during breathing. They have become adapted in different types of birds to deal with different ways of getting around.

The bones are shortest in runners like emus that don't need large breast muscles for flight, intermediate in flying birds and longest in divers such as the penguin.

The Manchester team studied a wealth of fossil remains of dinosaurs and extinct birds such as Archaeopteryx, and compared these with skeletons of living birds.

They found that uncinate processes are also found both in the extinct ancestors of birds, the theropod dinosaurs, and in modern species.

Dinosaurs are most like diving birds in their morphology.

"The dinosaurs we studied from the fossil record had long uncinate processes similar in structure to those of diving birds," said Dr Codd.

"This suggests both dinosaurs and diving birds need longer lever arms to help them breathe," he added.

The data, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, may provide clues to how dinosaurs evolved and how they might have lived.

Story courtesy of the BBC @:

Friday Videos!





Thursday, December 4, 2008

Image(s) of the Day




Cassowary, originally uploaded by jesuitjason.

Flightless bird of Queensland--any doubts as to the claim that birds are descended from dinos should end here, with this large and aggressive bird.



Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Struthioniformes
Family: Casuariidae
Genus: Casuarius
Brisson, 1760
Species:

Casuarius casuarius
Casuarius unappendiculatus
Casuarius bennetti


Cassowaries (from the Indonesian name kasuari) are part of the ratite group, which also includes the emu, rhea, ostrich, and kiwi, and the extinct Moa and Elephant Bird. There are three species recognized today:

* Southern Cassowary or Double-wattled cassowary C. casuarius of Australia and New Guinea.
* Dwarf Cassowary C. bennetti of New Guinea and New Britain.
* Northern Cassowary C. unappendiculatus of New Guinea.

The evolutionary history of cassowaries, as of all ratites, is not well known. A fossil species was reported from Australia, but for reasons of biogeography this assignment is not certain and it might belong to the prehistoric "emuwaries", Emuarius, which were cassowary-like primitive emus.


A cassowary's three-toed feet have sharp claws; the dagger-like middle claw is 120 mm (5 inches) long. This claw is particularly dangerous since the Cassowary can use it to kill an enemy, disemboweling it with a single kick. They can run up to 50 km/h (32 mph) through the dense forest. They can jump up to 1.5 m (5 feet) and they are good swimmers.


All three species have horn-like crests called casques on their heads. These consist of "a keratinous skin over a core of firm, cellular foam-like material".[3] Several purposes for the casques have been proposed. One possibility is that they are secondary sexual characteristics. Other suggestions include that they are used to batter through underbrush, as a weapon for dominance disputes, or as a tool for pushing aside leaf litter during foraging. The latter three are disputed by biologist Andrew Mack, whose personal observation suggests that the casque amplifies deep sounds.[4] However, the earlier article by Crome and Moore says that the birds do lower their heads when they are running "full tilt through the vegetation, brushing saplings aside and occasionally careering into small trees. The casque would help protect the skull from such collisions."[3] Mack and Jones also speculate that the casques play a role in either sound reception or acoustic communication. This is related to their discovery that at least the Dwarf Cassowary and Southern Cassowary produce very-low frequency sounds, which may aid in communication in dense rainforest.[4] This "boom" is the lowest known bird call, and is on the edge of human hearing.[3]

Description

Females lay three to eight large, pale green-blue eggs in each clutch. These eggs measure about 9 by 14 cm (3½ by 5½ inches) — only ostrich and emu eggs are larger. The female does not care for the eggs or the chicks; the male incubates the eggs for two months, then cares for the brown-striped chicks for nine months, defending them fiercely against all potential predators, including humans.



They call 55-million-year-old Diatryma gigantean a terror bird. And the evidence is compelling.

This flightless species stood some seven feet (two meters) tall and was armed with a strong beak and powerful clawed feet. In North America and western Europe, scientists say, Diatryma likely took over as top predators once the dinosaurs had died offpossibly even hunting ancestors of today's horses.

Convergent evolution? Cousins? Surely joined by a common ancestor... but which one (and was it flightless)?

Information source and first photo credit: Wikipedia
Remaining Cassowary images: Flickr
Terror Bird: National Geographic, info and picture

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A New Letter from Dr. Dee Boersma


Pictured: Dr. Boersma and her beloved penguins

Penguin_Update

Greeting from the Penguin Project.

Each year brings new challenges and opportunities, and this year will be particularly challenging. Our success at Punta Tombo is closing the road within the colony to cars so no more penguins are being hit. No new areas have been opened to tourists which is good for the penguins. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)/University of Washington (UW) Penguin Project will continue to advise the Province on what the penguins require. I worry that a new anchovy fishery may start, and the financial crisis may limit our ability to study penguins.

On April 4, 2009 we plan to have a 25th year anniversary party at the Burke Museum in Seattle for the WCS/UW Penguin Project. Additionally, during the first week of November 2009 I will lead a UW alumni group trip to the Galapagos Islands. You don't have to be an alumni to go but it will help to be a penguin lover. If you're interested go to http://www.washington.edu/alumni/tours/tour-

Attached is the Penguin Project Fall Newsletter which will also be posted on our Web site www.penguinstudies.org:

Download newletter HERE

Regards,

Dee

P. Dee Boersma, Ph.D
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington
USA


(from wiinterrr---be sure to check out the newsletter and meet "Turbo."

The Diet of Penguins




Going on a Diet

Posted: December 1, 2008

Courtesy: Antarctic Sun

By Peter Rejcek
There’s an old saying: You are what you eat. But the krill-based diet of penguins breeding and living on King George Island off the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula first tipped scientists off that food could provide an altogether different insight.

“It was the penguins that actually keyed us into to the global change scenario that has become the leading hypothesis about climate change in the peninsula region,” explained Wayne Trivelpiece , a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service whose research also receives support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) .

Trivelpiece, along with his wife and co-principal investigator, Susan Trivelpiece , has compiled more than 30 years of continuous data on the three types of penguins from a seabird research program at King George Island — Adélies, chinstraps and gentoos. During that time, atmospheric temperatures in the peninsula region have risen faster than anywhere on the planet, particularly in the winter, where the average has increased by 5 degrees Celsius.

“Studying all three [penguins] at once has given us some real insights into just what happens when we come across some major changes in environmental features and climate, which has certainly happened there,” Wayne Trivelpiece said.

Krill are shrimplike crustaceans that penguins, seals and other marine denizens feed on. Krill rely on sea ice in the winter as a habitat, grazing on algae that form underneath the ice. But the increasing temperatures have made the formation of sea ice, once predictable and reliable, uncertain from year to year, according to Wayne Trivelpiece.

That’s directly affected the abundance of krill and the survival rates of penguins.



The remainder of the article is at this addy:
http://www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/news/2008/120108diet.shtml

Image of the Day


Beware of the Penguin, originally uploaded by clarity25.

Random Penguin fact of the day

Do penguins bite?

Yes, penguins defend themselves and their nest sites with their beaks and wings. They bite fiercely and also use their thick, strap-like, wings to beat their opponent. Blue penguins and most of the crested species are regular fighters, often getting into bloody brawls during the breeding season. The more reclusive species, like yellow-eyed penguins, rarely fight among themselves, but are still prepared to bite anybody that comes too close.

Like most penguins, the species in New Zealand do not like being handled by humans. The closest thing to being beaten up by a penguin is being grabbed with a pair of needle-nosed pliers and beaten with sandals!

They look cute yes..

But it's probably a good idea to keep your distance

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Image of the Day


Penguin, originally uploaded by jiless.

Our newsworthy subject: less diversity of life in the Galapagos than in Antarctica. The Galapagos Penguin is the only penguin species to exist on these islands and the northernmost of all penguin species, including the Humboldt (but excluding special cases). Within the sub-Antarctic region, there are 15 species. Huge difference.

Have a great day...

Antarctica More Rich in Species than Galapagos





















































Antarctica Has More Species Than Galapagos, First Comprehensive Inventory Of Antarctic Life Shows

ScienceDaily (Dec. 1, 2008) — The first comprehensive “inventory” of sea and land animals around a group of Antarctic islands reveals a region that is rich in biodiversity and has more species than the Galapagos. The study provides an important benchmark to monitor how they will respond to future environmental change.

Reporting this week in the Journal of Biogeography, the team from British Antarctic Survey and University of Hamburg, describe how they combed the land, sea and shores of the South Orkney Islands, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, using scuba divers and trawled nets to catch creatures as deep as 1500 metres.

Animals recorded were then checked with a century of literature and modern databases and the team concludes there are over 1200 known marine and land species. These include sea urchins, free-swimming worms, crustaceans and molluscs, mites and birds. Five were new to science.

Lead author Dr David Barnes from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) says: “This is the first time anybody has done an inventory like this in the polar regions. It’s part of the Census of Marine Life (COML) – an international effort to assess and explain the diversity and distribution of marine life in the world’s oceans. If we are to understand how these animals will respond to future change, a starting point like this is really important.”

Author Stefanie Kaiser from University of Hamburg says: “We never knew there were so many different species on and around these islands. This abundance of life was completely unexpected for a location in the polar regions, previously perceived to be poor in biodiversity.”

The research team, consisting of 23 scientists from five research institutes, spent seven weeks on the BAS Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross in 2006.
Adapted from materials provided by British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

British Antarctic Survey (BAS). "Antarctica Has More Species Than Galapagos, First Comprehensive Inventory Of Antarctic Life Shows." ScienceDaily 1 December 2008. 2 December 2008 .

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fiordland crested penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus)



Facts
Also known as: thick-billed penguin
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Sphenisciformes
Family Spheniscidae
Genus Eudyptes (1)
Size Length: up to 55 cm (2)
Height: 40 cm (2)
Weight 4 kg (2)
Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

Description

One of the smaller members of the penguin family, the Fiordland crested penguin has a black head, throat and back, a white front and underside, a thick stubby orange bill and pink feet. The most distinguishing features are the yellow sulphur-coloured crests above the eyes that extend from the bill to just behind the head. Both sexes are similar, whereas young birds have paler cheeks and shorter crests (2) (4).

Like other members of the genus Eudyptes the Fiordland crested penguin has a black throat but can be distinguished from the similar Rockhopper, Macaroni and Royal penguins by the shape, extent and colour of the eye crests (4). The two species that can be confused with the Fiordland crested are the erect-crested penguin and the Snares Island penguin. The former has eye crests that stand proud of the top of the head and no part which extends to below the eye itself. The latter is a slightly larger bird with a thicker bill (4).

Range

A migratory species, found in Antarctic waters and around the southern circumpolar islands, the Fiordland penguin breeds on the coast of southwest New Zealand, Stewart Island and Solander Island (5).

Habitat

Outside the breeding season, Fiordland crested penguins are birds of the open ocean. When ashore to breed they prefer secluded coastlines and chose nesting sites that are amongst rocks or have tree cover (3).

Biology

After spending much of the year alone in the open ocean, males arrive at the chosen breeding site ahead of the females during late June or July. Two weeks later the females arrive and mating takes place. The birds are monogamous and prefer their nest sites to be hidden from one another. Two pale-green eggs are laid in a cavity between tree roots, stones or small burrows in the coastal forest, and incubation takes from four to six weeks. The birds do not attempt to collect nest materials. Although it is usual for just one egg to hatch successfully, occasionally both chicks emerge. However, the parents rarely catch enough food for two offspring and the smaller chick usually dies (3).

While the chick is still defenceless, one parent (usually the male), will guard it whilst the other finds food. Fiordland crested penguins feed inshore and catch crustaceans, squid and small fish which they regurgitate for the chick. Once the young is large enough to be safe from most native predators, both parents take on the role of fishing to provide their offspring with food. Chicks often wander about the nest site or gather in loose-knit crèches. After about 10 or 11 weeks, the chick moults and leaves the nest site, finally adopting the solitary pelagic lifestyle of the adult birds. It will return to breed at the age of five years (2) (3).

Threats

The Fiordland crested penguin has declined in numbers drastically during the last twenty years. In the 1980s, the global population was estimated to number 10,000 breeding pairs. Today, the number is thought to be 2,500 to 3,000 pairs. The principal cause is believed to be from introduced animals such as cats and stoats (5), although where the birds' breeding sites are close to public beaches, pet dogs are thought to be largely responsible for disturbing adult birds and catching chicks. With the increase in human leisure activities, this pressure is bound to intensify (2). There is also a problem with the endemic weka, Gallirallus australis, which preys on eggs and chicks and is thought to contribute to over a third of egg loses in some breeding areas, especially Solander Island (5).

At sea, penguins are in constant competition for food with fishing vessels and sometimes find themselves caught in fishing nets. Perhaps the biggest threat, however, is through marine pollution, particularly oil spillage and the illegal but common practice of discharging oil tanker ballast water off-shore (5). As yet, little is known about the possible effects of global warming on penguin populations (5).

Conservation

Recent surveys of a number of the Fiordland crested penguin's breeding areas have suggested that more research into predator-related threats need to be examined. One idea is to eradicate the weka – the principal local predator – from Solander Island to reduce the losses of eggs and chicks (5).

References

1. IUCN Red List (April, 2007)
http://www.iucnredlist.org
2. International Penguin Conservation (April, 2004)
http://www.penguins.cl/fiordland-penguins.htm
3. Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (April, 2004)
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Eudyptes_pachyrhynchus.html
4. Sparks, J. and Soper, T. (1968) Penguins. David and Charles, Newton Abbott.
5. Birdlife International (2003) Birdlife's on-line World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Version 2.0. Cambridge, UK: Birdlife International (April, 2004)
http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3854&m=0

Fact sheet from Archive@
http://www.arkive.org/fiordland-crested-penguin/eudyptes-pachyrhynchus/info.html
Picture from: http://www.md.ucl.ac.be/peca/test/Fiordland%20Crested%20Penguin.jpg

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Videos!



Friday Videos!



Erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri)



Facts

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Sphenisciformes
Family Spheniscidae
Genus Eudyptes (1)
Size Height: 60 cm (2)
Weight 4 kg (3)
Status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

Description

Erect-crested penguins are perhaps some of the most mysterious of all penguin species (4). This species is one of the largest of the crested penguins and shares with the Fiordland and Snares crested penguins the distinctive feature of an upward-sweeping crest of long, yellow brush-like feathers above each eye, extending from the base of the bill to the top of the head (4) (5). Unlike other crested penguins, however, the erect-crested penguin is able to raise and lower these stiff crest feathers (4). With its black back and white belly, this species sports the classic penguin ‘tuxedo look'. The upper sides of the wings are black with a white edge and the lower sides are white with a black patch at the tip. Males are generally larger than females, and both sexes have long, slender beaks that are dark brown-orange in colour (3).

Range


The majority of the breeding population occurs on the Bounty and Antipodes Islands, with smaller numbers on the Auckland and Campbell Islands, New Zealand. The non-breeding winter distribution is spent at sea in the sub-Antarctic oceans, although the exact location is unknown (6).

Habitat

Nests are constructed in large, dense colonies on rocky terrain, often without substantial soil or vegetation, up to 75 m above sea level (2).

Biology

The erect-crested penguin is an extremely social bird that breeds in large, raucous colonies of several thousand pairs, usually alongside rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome) (4) (6). This species uses a number of displays and vocalisations, utilised particularly in the courtship and breeding season and in aggressive territorial behaviour during mate matching or when defending nesting sites (3) (6). Courtship displays include an enthusiastic greeting with an open bill, vertical head swinging, trumpeting, quivering, bowing and preening (3). Aggressive displays include use of the crests, growling and barking, while direct fighting involves twisting of locked bills or biting of the enemy on the neck while beating them with the flipper (3) (6).

Males usually return to the breeding site in September, and compete fiercely for prime nesting sites (6) (7). The females join the males two weeks later and work together to construct nests made of mud, stones and grass (3). Two eggs are laid in early October, although the first egg, which is noticeably smaller than the second, is usually lost (4) (6). The second egg is up to twice as large as the first, and is the only one seriously incubated (5). The male and female take turns incubating the egg for about 35 days (3) (6). After hatching, the chicks are fed regurgitated food by the female until they fledge in February. For three to four weeks the male stands guard without food while the female forages and returns daily to feed the chick (3) (6). Adults return to the sea for the (austral) winter after moulting in March (3) (7).

Little is known about the feeding habits of the erect-crested penguin, but the main sources of food are thought to be krill and squid, occasionally supplemented by small fish (2) (6).

Threats

Although still fairly abundant, the erect-crested penguin is considered endangered because it is thought to have undergone significant declines of at least 50% over the last 45 years, a pattern that is only expected to continue. Furthermore, the species' very small and restricted breeding range leaves it particularly vulnerable (2). The reasons for this decline are not fully understood, but are believed to be associated with marine factors, as predation on land during the breeding season is unlikely to be significant, since there are no mammalian predators on the Bounty or Antipodes Islands, except for mice on the main Antipodes Island (2) (7).

Conservation

All the islands on which the erect-crested penguin is found are nature reserves and, as of 1998, became part a World Heritage site. Cattle and sheep were eradicated from Campbell Island in 1984 and 1992 respectively, and introduced brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) have also been successfully removed from Campbell Island (2).

Further Information

For more information on the erect-crested penguin see:

* International Penguin Conservation Working Group (IPCWG):
http://www.penguins.cl/erect-penguins.htm
* New Zealand Penguins:
http://www.penguin.net.nz/species/ecp/index.html

References

1. IUCN Red List (September, 2006)
http://www.iucnredlist.org
2. BirdLife International (November, 2006)
http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3856&m=0
3. MarineBio (November, 2006)
http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=648
4. Antarctic Connection (November, 2006)
http://www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/wildlife/penguins/erect_crested.shtml
5. New Zealand Penguins (November, 2006)
http://www.penguin.net.nz/species/ecp/index.html
6. Animal Diversity Web (November, 2006)
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Eudyptes_sclateri.html
7. International Penguin Conservation Work Group (IPCWG) (November, 2006)
http://www.penguins.cl/erect-penguins.htm

Fact sheet courtesy of Archive @
http://www.arkive.org/erect-crested-penguin/eudyptes-sclateri/info.html

Image credit: Dandyfine @ Flickr