The 2009 Spring update is here! Learn how the 2008-09 season went and what is new at the Penguin Project. The 2009 Spring Newsletter text can be found below. We also recently renovated our website (www.penguinstudies.org) to include up-to-date penguin news from around the world as well as anything and everything Magellanic Penguin. You can find all of our newsletters, including this most recent one, on the website under 'Publications'. Additionally, Turbo is now on Facebook so make sure to search for 'Turbo the Penguin' and add yourself as a fan to see exciting pictures, videos and stories all about Turbo!
Spring 2009 Penguin Update by Dee Boersma
Five consecutive years of successful chick rearing is in many ways a hopeful sign. Despite a storm that likely killed 16% of the chicks, adults raised 3/4 of a chick per nest, which is well above the 25 year average of a 1/2 chick per nest (most pairs don't raise any chicks). In the areas we call the Canada and Sea we checked 181 nests and 32 pairs fledged both chicks. But in spite of another successful year, the number of active nests in the colony is down 23.1% from 1987. Winters still are tough on the penguins. Only about 2 to 5% of the penguins on the beach this year were juveniles, so few chicks from last year apparently survived. Getting penguins to breed at Punta Tombo requires that they survive several winters, but last winter many juveniles swam to northern Brazil where they eventually starved. Penguins also encountered an oil spill in their winter grounds. There are several dozen groups dedicated to rehabilitation of penguins in northern Argentina, Uruguay and south Brazil, so we need your help to turn our attention to solving this problem. Penguins with petroleum in Chubut are nearly as rare as hen's teeth. We saw one penguin with some petroleum at Punta Tombo, but that was it. Moving the shipping lanes in 1994 and a decrease in illegal dumping of ballast water has helped the penguins. In March, when Esteban Freres and I walked 25 km of beach along the Chubut coast, we found no penguins either dead or alive with petroleum. Penguins are still getting oiled in the north (northern Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil), however.
For the second year in a row, we found featherless or ‘naked’ chicks at Punta Tombo. The chicks hatched with an initial layer of down but failed to grow in their second layer of down. They then remained ‘naked’, resembling plucked chickens, until they grew in their juvenile plumage when they were approximately one month old. We speculate that a virus may be the culprit, and our newest graduate student, Olivia Kane, will be investigating this problem.
We deployed 27 satellite tags at Punta Tombo and 10 at Cabo dos Bahìas this season. Penguins are traveling farther to find their food since we began satellite tracking 12 years ago. This year, they swam a mean distance of 430 km from Punta Tombo during incubation, nearly the same as in 2007 (431 km), but approximately 40 km farther than in 2006 (394 km), and almost 100 km farther than the distances traveled prior to 2001.
We had several unexpected and amazing visitors this year. A young man from Ireland, Keith Norris, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, and whose wish was to see penguins in the wild visited thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. We taught him how to measure the volume of a (plastic) egg, and showed him the weigh scale, and walked with him through the penguin colony to give him a sense of how we keep track of all the penguins. In November and again on December 25th, the cormorant colony at the tip of the point had a visitor from southern Africa, a Cape Gannet (Morus capensis). Cape Gannets are rarely seen in Argentine waters. This is the second year we saw a Cape Gannet at Punta Tombo, and it's likely the same one from last year.
Our third visitor, a King Penguin, arrived for a day in December. The beautiful giant preened and made contact calls while resting on the beach. When no King penguins answered he left, but seeing him was a pleasant surprise for everyone except the Magellanic penguins, which seemed to think he was weird.
In 2007, we implanted radio identification tags (similar to those implanted into dogs and cats by veterinarians) in approximately 150 birds, and put out two reading pads that recorded tag numbers, time of day, and direction of travel when penguins cross them. This year we put out a scale to weigh penguins as they walked over it. We got over 10,000 readings and are in the process seeing if we can translate those light and heavy footsteps into weights. We are designing a system to tell use who, when and what direction a penguins was going and its weight. If and when our system works, we can determine the effect of opening and closing of the fisheries on adult penguin fishing success and chick growth. The penguins continue to be a challenge as they pull out cords and walk around the pads, and some only put one foot on the scale. The penguins and technology are a constant challenge, but we hope to win the battle and get accurate and reliable data this coming season.
On April 4, 2009 we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Penguin Project by unveiling the U of WA Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels. The Penguin Project, The International Penguin Society, Conservation magazine, and volunteer student research and education programs are the four pillars of the Center. The Penguin Project will continue to follow individual penguins, monitor the colony and develop the data needed to plan effective conservation efforts. The International Penguin Society, launched with a Pew Fellowship to Dr. Pablo Borboroglu, an Argentine conservationist, will develop and advocate solutions for sustainable marine activities and management, drawing on penguins as a charismatic, keystone species. Conservation magazine, started in 2001, is the voice for the science behind conservation. The magazine’s mission is to raise the bar on environmental thinking and writing. The Center is dedicated to educating the next generation of conservation leaders. We believe the new University Center will increase our ability to make a positive contribution to the lives of penguins, people, and conservation. As always we are honored by and welcome your support. These are challenging times and it is your support that makes it possible to continue our satellite work: $5,000 allows you to name a penguin that we will follow closely and provide you with maps and its life story each year.
Best wishes, Dee
P.S. If you would like to accompany me and other wildlife enthusiasts on the trip of a lifetime. there is still room on the University of Washington expedition to the Galápagos (October 31 through November 8, 2009) . If you are interested please contact Olivia Kane at email@example.com.
By Veronica Combos Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Subphylum: Vertebrata Class: Aves Order: Sphenisciformes Family: Spheniscidae Genus: Pygoscelis Species: Pygoscelis adeliae Geographic Range
Pygoscelis adeliae is found only in the Antarctic region. Adelie penguins breed on the coasts of Antarctica and on surrounding islands. The area with the most abundant population of Adelie penguins is in the Ross Sea. (Ainley, 2002; Berger, 2004)
Biogeographic Regions: Antarctica (native).
Habitat Depth 200 m (average) (656 ft)
Living in the Antarctic region, Adelie penguins must withstand very cold temperatures. During the winter months they inhabit large coastal ice platforms, so they will have better access to food. Krill, the primary staple in their diet, feed on plankton that live underneath sea ice, so there is an abundance of krill in those areas. During the breeding season, typically in the early spring and summer months, they travel to coastal beaches to build their nests on ice-free ground. With access to open water, this locale provides the penguins with almost immediate access to food for themselves and their young. (Alten, 1997; Berger, 2004; George, 2002)
These animals are found in the following types of habitat: polar; terrestrial; saltwater or marine.
Terrestrial Biomes: icecap.
Aquatic Biomes: coastal.
Physical Description Mass 3.62 to 4.99 kg (7.96 to 10.98 lbs)
Length 69.85 cm (average) (27.5 in)
Adelie penguins are one of the smaller species of penguins, just above 60.96 cm tall. Their back, tail, head, and face are black. They have a white belly and a white ring around their brown eyes. Their feathers cover half of their bill, which is black with an orange base. They have dull white to pink legs and feet with black soles. (Berger, 2004; Glausiusz, 2007; Grossman, 2003)
Some key physical features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry .
Sexual dimorphism: sexes alike.
Reproduction Breeding interval Breeding occurs once a year from early spring to summer.
Breeding season Breeding occurs in the austral spring and summer.
Eggs per season 1 to 3; avg. 2
Time to hatching 24 to 39 days; avg. 32 days
Time to fledging 28 days (average)
Time to independence 60 days (average)
Age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female) 3 to 6 years; avg. 4 years
Age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male) 4 to 6 years; avg. 5 years
Male Adelie penguins attempt to attract mates with a "salute" in which they they stand about 4 m away from the female of interest and put on a display of beak thrusting, neck arching, and reaching his full height. This salute also serves to announce that male's territory in the colony. In early spring, Adelie penguins journey back to their breeding grounds. Males arrive first. Each pair recognizes each other's mating call and their nesting site from the previous year. These pairs may reunite for consecutive years unless one of the mates does not return to the nesting site. Males also exhibit defensive measures of beak pecking and open yelling to defend territories and mates. (Alten, 1997; Richdale, 1951)
Mating systems: monogamous .
Generally, Adelie penguins return to their same nesting site around springtime for mating. The lengthening of days in the spring stimulates penguins to begin their period of hyperphagia, or persistent feeding. They feed constantly to store fat that they need during the breeding and incubation periods. They build stone nests in preparation for their two eggs. Adelie penguins most commonly produce two offspring per breeding season, with one egg laid shortly after the first. The eggs incubate for about 36 days. The parents alternate caring for the young for about 4 weeks post-hatching, when the young enter a creche with other juvenile Adelie penguins for protection. At this time, both parents return to the sea to feed. (Ainley, 2002; Alten, 1997; Berger, 2004)
Both parents invest heavily in their young. During incubation males and females take turns with the egg while the other is feeding. Once the chick is hatched, both adults take turns in feeding and searching for food. Newly hatched chicks are born with down feathers but are unable to feed themselves; they are semi-precocial. Four weeks after a chick has hatched it will join a creche of other juvenile Adelie penguins for protection. During its time in the creche the parents still feed their young. After 56 days in the creche most Adelie penguins become independent. (Ainley, 2002; Alten, 1997; Berger, 2004)
Lifespan/Longevity Extreme lifespan (wild) 5 to 16 years
Survivorship among Adelie penguins is lower in individuals who begin to breed at younger ages, between 3 and 5 years. However, individuals that do attempt to breed at an earlier age tend to breed more successfully in later years than penguins that first breed at 5 to 6 years old. Adelie penguins have been known to live as long as 16 years. (Ainley, 2002) Behavior
Pygoscelis adeliae is a very social species. They are constantly interacting with others in their small group or colony. They also travel together from pack ice to their nesting beach when breeding season is about to begin. There is no known social structure within their colony, but mated pairs are protective of their nest site and display in front of it. Adelie penguins are social hunters as well. They typically stay in groups as it reduces risk of predation and increases efficiency of finding food.
Adelie penguins can porpoise, or shoot out of the water to skim above the surface a few feet before splashing back down. While penguins are out of the water they quickly grab a breath of air. On land they can travel in a variety of ways. Adelie penguins walk upright with a waddling gait, progress by two-footed jump, or they can toboggan: sliding on their belly over ice and snow. (Ainley, 2002; Berger, 2004) Home Range
These penguins have no designated home range and do not defend a territory outside of their nest site.
Key behaviors: terricolous; natatorial ; diurnal ; motile ; migratory ; social ; colonial . Communication and Perception
Adelie penguins are very social and communication with neighbors and mates is important. The most common mode of communication with neighbors are displays and posturing. Mates also communicate using displays, but these are most often more ecstatic and one that only each mate would recognize. Mated Adelie penguins also use calls to identify each other and their offspring. Males and females actively defend their nest site and will often fight with their neighbors. Adelie penguins can signal apprehension by raising their head feathers and they can signal threat by a sideways stare with their crest raised and their eyes rolled downward. (Berger, 2004)
The primary food source for Adelie penguins is krill (Euphausia superba). They also consume fish, such as lantern fish and other members of the family Myctophidae and Antarctic silverfish (Pleuragramma antarcticum). Squid, other cephalopods, and amphipods are part of their normal diet as well. Adelie penguins store food and regurgitate it later to feed their newly hatched young. (Ainley, 2002; Berger, 2004)
Typical predators of Pygoscelie adeliae are leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx), killer whales (Orcinus orca), and south polar skuas (Stercorarius maccormicki). Leopard seals are the most common predators of Adelie penguins, usually near the edge of the ice pack. Leopard seals are never an issue for penguins on shore, because leopard seals only come ashore to sleep or rest. Adelie penguins have learned to evade these predators by swimming in groups, avoiding thin ice, and spending little time in the water within 200 m of the beach. Killer whales generally prey on larger penguin species, but may occasionally take Adelies. South polar skuas prey on eggs and chicks left unguarded by adults or at the edges of creches. act more as scavengers than predators. Sheathbills (Chionis albus) also sometimes taken unguarded eggs. (Ainley, 2002; Alten, 1997) Ecosystem Roles
Adelie penguins impact krill (Euphausia superba), Antarctic silverfish (Pleuragramma antarcticum), and cephalopod populations, the main species in their diet. These penguins are impacted by leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx), killer whales (Orcinus orca), south polar skuas (Stercorarius maccormicki), and sheathbills (Chionis albus). (Ainley, 2002; Grossman, 2003) Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no known adverse effects of Pygoscelie adeliae on humans. Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Adelie penguins are often good indicators of climate change. Adelie penguins are beginning to inhabit beaches that were previously perenially covered in ice, suggesting warming of Antarctic environments. Adelie penguin colonies are highlights for ecotourism in the Antarctic. From the eighteenth to the early twentieth century these penguins were used for food, oil, and bait. Their guano was mined and used as fertilizer. Now they are a protected species in most countries. (Ainley, 2002; Glausiusz, 2007; Grossman, 2003)
Ways that people benefit from these animals: ecotourism ; research and education; produces fertilizer.
IUCN Red List: Not Evaluated.
US Migratory Bird Act: No special status.
US Federal List: No special status.
CITES: No special status.
State of Michigan List: [link]: No special status.
According to the IUCN Red List, Pygoscelis adeliae is considered "low risk" and of "least concern."
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
Ainley, D. 2002. The Adelie Penguin: Bellwether of Climate Change. New York: Columbia University Press.
Alten, M. 1997. Penguin Parenting: Adelie penguins reunite for their annual breeding rituals. Animals, 130: 20-23.
Berger, C. 2004. Sphenisciformes (Penguins). Pp. 147-158 in M. Hutchins, D. Thoney, M. McDade, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life encyclopedia, Vol. 8, 2 Edition. Detroit: Gale Virtual Reference Library. Accessed September 21, 2007 at http://find.galegroup.com/ips/retrieve.do?contentSet=EBKS&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C%29%3AFQE%3D%28ke%2CNone%2C14%29adelie+penguin%24&sgHitCountType=None&inPS=true&sort=DateDescend&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&tabID=T001&prodId=IPS&searchId=R2¤tPosition=1&userGroupName=viva_radford&docId=CX3406700515&docType=EBKS&contentSet=EBKS.
George, A. 2002. Go with the floe: Adelie penguins can't survive without ice. But you can have too much of a good thing. New Scientist, Dec 21, 2002: 36-40.
Glausiusz, J. 2007. The Beacon Bird of Climate Change. Discover, 28.4: 14.
Grossman, D. 2003. On thin ice: Adelie penguins are proving to be Antarctica's most sensitive indicators of climate shifts. Their falling population portends a multitude of changes that will reverberate throughout the region. Audubon, 105.4: 78-83.
Ainley, D., C. Ribic, G. Ballard, S. Heath, I. Gaffney, B. Karl, K. Barton, P. Wilson, S. Webb. 2004. Geographic Structre of Adelie Penguin Populations: Overlap in Colony-specific Foraging Areas. Ecological Monographs, 74.1: 159-170.
Richdale, L. 1951. Sexual Behavior in Penguins. Lawerence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press.
Roy, T. 2000. Caught In A Melting World - Adelie penguins may be the canaries in the coal mines of global warming. International wildlife, NA: NA. Accessed September 20, 2007 at http://find.galegroup.com/ips/start.do?prodId=IPS. 2009/05/17 04:52:07.854 GMT-4
Source material: Combos, V. and K. Francl. 2008. "Pygoscelis adeliae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 23, 2009 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Pygoscelis_adeliae.html. Images by ARKive
Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Subphylum: Vertebrata Class: Aves Order: Sphenisciformes Family: Spheniscidae Genus: Pygoscelis Species: Pygoscelis antarcticus Geographic Range
Chinstrap penguins make their home around the Antarctic Peninsula and the coastal islands of the continent. Mainly, you find them on the South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Island and South Sandwich (Welch 1997). Biogeographic Regions:
Chinstrap Penguins often live on large icebergs on the open ocean. One colony on the South Sandwich Islands is said to contain over 10 million birds. They are a stable population and were last estimated to include about 7.5 million breeding pairs. (Barham and Barham 1996, Welch 1997, Woehler and Chippingdale 2000).
Terrestrial Biomes: icecap.
Physical Description: Mass---3000 to 5000 g; avg. 4000 g (105.6 to 176 oz; avg. 140.8 oz)
Chinstrap penguins are white on the front and throat but have a black back. A thin band of black plumage runs from one side of the head to the other, right below each reddish eye and unites under the bill. Chicks have grey backs and white fronts. The male and female Chinstraps are monomorphic, as are all other penguins, thus make it hard to tell them apart without non-morphological cues. They stand about 72 cm tall and weigh about 3.5 to 5 kg. Adult weight varies during the year. When the penguin is in the molting season they gain the most weight and when they are in the brooding period they lose the most. Chinstrap penguins are able to withstand extreme cold due to the insulation provided by their short, densely packed feathers. This in turn forms a waterproof coat. Underneath these feathers, a thick layer of fat or blubber also serves as storage for energy. These adaptations help protect them against the extreme cold conditions of the Antarctic by minimizing heat loss in icy cold waters (Hale 1999, Muller-Schwarze 1984, Welch 1997).
Some key physical features:
endothermic; bilateral symmetry.
The nests they build on icebergs are roughly circular consisting of stones and are typically 40 cm in diameter and up to 15 cm high. Chinstrap penguins usually lay two eggs, generally two to four weeks later than other pygoscelid species in the same area. The Chinstraps complete their breeding cycle by February or March and go back to the pack ice during winter. The eggs are hatched by both parents in shifts of 5 to 10 days. After 33 to 35 days the chicks hatch and they stay in the nests for 20 to 30 days before joining their crèches (groups of young penguins huddling together for warmth and protection). At 50 to 60 days of age, after molting, the chicks finally go to sea (Barham and Barham 1996, Hale 1999).
Key reproductive features:
iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous.
Penguins in general communicate through complex ritual behaviors that include head and flipper waving, calling, bowing, gesturing and preening. Stares, pointing and even charging occur when the Chinstraps have territorial disputes. During courtship and mating rituals the male Chinstrap penguin communicates through pumping his chest several times and stretching his head upward. He then emits a harsh loud screeching sound and is soon joined in by other penguins, thus create a mass trumpeting. This is believed to help synchronize the breeding cycle. Chinstrap penguins live and breed in large colonies and dive off their iceberg homes to catch fish and krill. The Chinstrap is considered the boldest penguin and thus is the most likely to fight other penguins. Lastly, they are recognized and sometimes called "Stone cracker Penguins" because of their high-pitched call (Hale 1999, Muller-Schwarze 1984, "Science: Penguins" 1995).
Their principal predator is the leopard seal, while the main predators of eggs and chicks are the Sheathbill and Brown skua. They are not considered to be migratory (Barham and Barham 1996, Welch 1997, Woehler and Chippingdale 2000).
The Chinstrap's diet is quite simple and consists of small shoaling animals: krill, small fish and other roaming marine crustacea. Chinstrap penguins' prey is 95% krill and about 5% of the other species mentioned (Barham and Barham 1996; Welch 1997). Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Penguins eat seafood that consists of 94% fish, 5% squid, and 1% crustacea. Fisheries argue that in one breeding season, all species of penguin are able to eat 7,000 tons of food, and 2,900 of that has economic value to humans (Sparks and Soper 1987).
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Today, penguins are economically important in South America and South Africa for their guano, which is used for fertilizer. Penguins in general are a big tourist attraction no matter where their home is. In the past, commercial egg collecting caused severe damage to rookeries and penguins were also slaughtered for their blubber. In some places, such as islands in the southern Indian Ocean, fishermen still use penguin meat for bait ("Penguins" 2000).
IUCN Red List: [link]: Least Concern.
US Migratory Bird Act: [link]: No special status.
US Federal List: [link]: No special status.
CITES: [link]: Appendix I.
12 to 13 million Chinstrap penguins are thought to be located on the barren islands of the sub-Antarctic Region and the Antarctic Peninsula. Thus, this species is in no immediate danger. They are legally protected from hunting and egg collecting.
Two recent studies show that penguins have been infected with diseases that were most likely spread by people discarding poultry. Australian scientists at Mawson Station inAntartica found antibodies for infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) in Emperor penguin chicks (Aptenodytes forsteri) and adults of Pygoscelis adeliae, Adelie penguins. Swedish scientists found Salmonella bacteria in penguins on Bird Island.
Under the Antarctic Treaty System, the "Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora prohibit killing, wounding, capturing, or molesting any native mammal or bird in Antarctica without a permit." These "Agreed Measures" strengthen the conservation by the Protocol on Environmental Protection for the Antarctic Treaty. Annex II. This protocol prohibits the import of live poultry, and requires specific treatment for dressed poultry and its disposal. To evaluate the statues of various animals the the Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP) is used, which determines the conservation priorities for a country. During a conference in 1992 where New Zealand penguins were discussed resulted in the choices of further management, research and captive breeding programs for nine species and subspecies. ("Penguins", 2000)
Other names for the Chinstrap penguins are "Ringed penguin" and "Bearded penguin". No subspecies have been proposed and they are the smallest of the pygoscelids (Barham and Barham 1996, Welch 1997).
Mike Coulson (author), University of California-Irvine. Rudi Berkelhamer (editor), University of California at Irvine. References
2000. "Penguins" (On-line). Accessed Oct. 23, 2000 at http://www.seaworld.org/Penguins/pageone.html.
1995. "Science: Penguins" (On-line). Accessed Oct. 24, 2000 at http://www.terraquest.com/va/science/penguins/penguins.html#B.
Barham, P., B. Barham. 1996. "Pete & Barb's Penguin Pages" (On-line). Accessed Oct. 24, 2000 at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Peter_and_Barbara_Barham/chin.htm.
Hale, P. 1999. "Penguins Around the World: Chinstrap Penguin" (On-line). Accessed Oct. 23, 2000 at http://www.siec.k12.in.us/~west/proj/penguins/chinstrap.html.
Muller-Schwarze, D. 1984. The Behavior of Penguins: Adapted to Ice and Tropics. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.
Sparks, J., T. Soper. 1987. Penguins. Oxford: Facts on File Publications.
Welch, K. 1997. "The Penguin Page" (On-line). Accessed Oct. 23, 2000 at http://users.capu.net/~kwelch/pp/.
Woehler, E., M. Clippingdale. 2000. "Chinstrap Penguin: Ten Facts" (On-line). Accessed Oct. 23, 2000 at http://www.eaglehawksc.vic.edu.au/kla/sose/antarct/tenfacts/chinstrp.htm. 2009/04/05 12:06:46.101 GMT-4
Coulson, M. 2001. "Pygoscelis antarcticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 08, 2009 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Pygoscelis_antarcticus.html.
Samples of ancient protein dating back 80 million years preserved in bone fragments and soft tissues of a hadrosaur. (Credit: Courtesy of NCSU)
Dinosaur-Bird Link: Ancient Proteins Preserved In Soft Tissue From 80 Million-Year-Old Hadrosaur
ScienceDaily (May 1, 2009) — Ancient protein dating back 80 million years to the Cretaceous geologic period has been preserved in bone fragments and soft tissues of a hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur, according to a study in the May 1 issue of Science.
Led by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and North Carolina State University (NCSU), the research support earlier results from analyses suggesting that collagen protein survived in the bones of a well preserved Tyrannosaurus rex, and offer robust new evidence supporting previous conclusions that birds and dinosaurs are evolutionarily related.
In April 2007 John Asara, PhD, Director of the Mass Spectrometry Core at BIDMC, together with NCSU paleontologist Mary Schweitzer, PhD, published two papers in Science describing their discovery that collagen extracted from bone fragments of a 68-million-year-old T. rex closely matched the amino acid sequences of modern day chickens. Not surprisingly, the widely publicized findings created a great deal of controversy.
"With this new paper, we hoped to show that our T. rex discovery was not a unique occurrence," notes Asara, who is also an Instructor in Pathology at Harvard Medical School. "This is the second dinosaur species we've examined and helps verify that our first discovery was not just a one-hit wonder. Our current study was the collaborative effort of a number of independent laboratories, whose findings collectively add up to a robust conclusion."
At the heart of the controversy is the idea that ancient protein can exist at all. When an animal dies, protein immediately begins to degrade and, in the case of fossils, is slowly replaced by mineral, a substitution process assumed to be complete by 1 million years. But with this latest evidence, it appears that some proteins do indeed have real staying power.
"We wound up identifying nearly double the number of amino acids we recovered in the T. rex study," says Asara. "The sequences displayed high spectral quality and the interpretations were of high confidence."
The two scientists had decided to collaborate again after Schweitzer and paleontologist Jack Horner of Montana State University's Museum of the Rockies recovered the 80-million-year-old Brachylophosaurus canadensis femur bone in the summer of 2007 and observed that it appeared to be even better preserved than the original T. rex fossil.
Schweitzer's initial laboratory analyses confirmed this observation: After being subjected to demineralization, the B. canadensis bone fragments showed marked preservation of original tissues and molecules, with microstructures resembling soft, transparent vessels, cells and fibrous matrix – even though the fossil was much older than the T. rex sample.
"Deep burial in sandstone seems to favor exceptional preservation," notes Schweitzer, explaining that this fossil was found under approximately seven meters of sandstone in the Judith River Formation, in parts of what is now Eastern Montana.
Chemical extractions of bone and vessel were subsequently sent to the laboratories of BIDMC scientists Lewis Cantley, PhD, and Raghu Kalluri, PhD, where immunoblots and immunochemistry analyses were conducted to determine the presence of collagen protein in the samples.
"Having been a part of the T. rex study, I was curious to be part of this investigation as well," explains Cantley, Chief of the Division of Signal Transduction at BIDMC. "In view of the skepticism about the original findings, it was important to demonstrate that our findings in T. rex could be verified in another dinosaur and in other laboratories."
The results confirmed the existence of protein. "Because I am a collagen biochemist, our lab was contacted to perform an independent analysis of this new bone find," explains Kalluri, who is Chief of the Division of Matrix Biology at BIDMC. "We isolated the proteins – collagen, laminin and elastin – from the bone, and also extracted bone cells and blood vessels from this sample. Our findings demonstrated that it did contain basement membrane matrix."
In addition, In situ mass spectrometry studies conducted at Montana State University by Recep Avci and Zhiyong Suo independently verified amino acids in dinosaur tissues, including the collagen signature amino acid, hydroxylated proline.
From there, using a combination of two mass spectrometry technologies – linear ion trap and hybrid linear ion trap/orbitrap – Asara was able to improve upon the techniques he had used in analyzing both the T. rex specimen and specimens from bones of other prehistoric animals including a 300,000-year-old mammoth and mastodon.
At the beginning of the study, Asara explains, his lab used an ion trap mass spectrometer, which captures and holds peptides through time so that after the collected peptides are measured for mass they are isolated and fragmented to reveal their amino acid sequence. Then, while the study was in progress, his lab acquired a high-resolution and highly mass-accurate Orbitrap XL mass spectrometer, which was used during the second half of the analysis.
"Because it is capable of sub 2 ppm mass accuracy, the Orbitrap allowed us to make more confident sequence calls than we did in the T. rex study," Asara explains. "For example, the mass difference between a hydroxyproline amino acid residue [which is plentiful in collagen] and a leucine or isoleucine residue is only 0.0364 Da. Although this very small measurement proved to be an obstacle for the ion trap, it was not a problem for the Orbitrap." Material for mass spectrometry sequence analysis was also sent to the lab of William Lane at Harvard University and mass spectrometry sequence data were independently verified by John Cottrell, PhD, at Matrix Science in London, UK.
The end result was a total of eight collagen peptides and 149 amino acids from four different samples, sequences that held up when multiple validation steps were performed, including comparisons with synthetic peptides using a spectral comparison algorithm and statistical evaluation.
In the final portion of the study, coauthor Chris Organ, PhD, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, conducted a rigorous phylogenetic analysis of the identified sequences to determine B. canadensis' place within the evolutionary tree of animals. The B. canadensis collagen sequence data were compared to a database of collagen sequence data from 21 species of living animals and sequences from two other fossils, mastodon and T. rex. The results placed B. canadensis on the same family-tree branch with T. rex, in the same group as chicken and ostrich, and more distantly, to alligator and lizard.
"The phylogenetic analysis yielded clear results, but the placement of the extinct dinosaurs still rests on a limited amount of sequence data," notes Organ. "There is not enough sequence data to correctly parse out the relationships within Dinosauria [the group containing B. canadensis, T. rex and the two birds] but the group as a whole is well supported by the analysis, which is consistent with studies based on morphology."
Ultimately, notes Asara, "We were able to achieve these results, in part, because the mass spectrometry systems that our lab has set up for cancer research are capable of a similar concentration range – low to sub femtomole -- needed for ancient fossil protein sequencing. We hope to meet with similar success when it comes to identifying novel signaling proteins from cancerous tissues."
This study was funded, in part, through grants from the National Science Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Merck Postdoctoral Science Research Fellowship, the National Institutes of Health and the Taplin Funds for Discovery, Harvard Medical School.
In addition to Asara and Schweitzer, coauthors include BIDMC investigators Lewis Cantley, Raghu Kalluri, Lisa Freimark, Valerie Lebleu, and Michael Duncan II; Wenxia Zheng of North Carolina State University; Chris Organ, John Neveu and William Lane of Harvard University; Recep Avci, and Zhiyong Suo of Montana State University; John Horner of the Museum of the Rockies (MT); Matthew Vander Heiden of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and John Cottrell of Matrix Science, London, UK.
1. Mary H. Schweitzer, Wenxia Zheng, Chris L. Organ, Recep Avci, Zhiyong Suo, Lisa M. Freimark, Valerie S. Lebleu, Michael B. Duncan, Matthew G. Vander Heiden, John M. Neveu, William S. Lane, John S. Cottrell, John R. Horner, Lewis C. Cantley, Raghu Kalluri, and John M. Asara. Biomolecular Characterization and Protein Sequences of the Campanian Hadrosaur B. canadensis. Science, 2009; 324 (5927): 626 DOI: 10.1126/science.1165069
Adapted from materials provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Email or share this story:
Source: MLA Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "Dinosaur-Bird Link: Ancient Proteins Preserved In Soft Tissue From 80 Million-Year-Old Hadrosaur." ScienceDaily 1 May 2009. 2 May 2009 <http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/04/090430144528.htm>.
Spheniscus magellanicus---Magellanic Penguin By Caleb Wong
Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Subphylum: Vertebrata Class: Aves Order: Sphenisciformes Family: Spheniscidae Genus: Spheniscus Species: Geographic Range
Magellanic Penguins are temperate weather penguins. The main breeding ranges are located in Cape Horn to 42° south on the Atlantic coast, Tierra del Fuego to 29° south on the Pacific coast, and the Falkland Islands. During winter season, the penguins from the Atlantic coast migrate to the coast of Brazil while the population from the Pacific Coast migrate north, to as far as Peru.
Habitat can vary from bare to forested terrain, flat land, cliff faces, and coasts, using the environment's vegetation to suit their needs.
These animals are found in the following types of habitat: temperate ; terrestrial ; saltwater or marine .
Terrestrial Biomes: forest .
Aquatic Biomes: coastal .
Physical Description Mass 3800 to 6500 g; avg. 5150 g (133.76 to 228.8 oz; avg. 181.28 oz)
Length 70 cm (average) (27.56 in)
Magellanic Penguins are medium sized penguins. Their average length is 70 cm (27.5 in) and weight ranges from 3.8 kg-6.5 kg (8.25 lb-14.25 lb). Males and females are similar in appearance, but males are usually larger. Physically, they have a fairly large head with a short neck. Tails are short and wedge shaped, and wings are long and narrow with a fused wrist joint which allows for strength and rigidity in the water but sacrifices the folding of wings that other birds are capable of. Webbed feet are set far back in the body, which gives them an upright stance when standing on land. Like most penguins, they exhibit counter shading - i.e. a dark brown or black colored dorsal side (back) and a silvery white collored ventral side (belly). This is both for camouflage for hunting its prey as well as a defense from the Magellanic Penguins' predators. Most Magellanic Penguins have a white band on both sides of the head, which begins at the eye and joins at the neck, and another white band, which joins below the throat, and runs down the side of the body. (Lynch, 1997; William, 1995)
Some key physical features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry .
Reproduction Time to hatching 40 days (average) [External Source: AnAge]
Age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female) 1040 days (average) [External Source: AnAge]
Age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male) 1040 days (average) [External Source: AnAge]
Breeding season is in September to early October and again in uary through February. Male and female penguins make nests where soil has little sand and high clay content, in either underground burrows they dig themselves or on the surface. These nests are big enough for both adults and can sometimes be deep. The male transfers sperm into the female through the cloaca. Female penguins lay two eggs which are off white in color with red and green stains from the bile and blood. The surface texture is chalky, but smooth. Eggs can weigh 115 g-145 g (0.25 lb-0.32 lb), and may take 39-42 days to hatch. Both parents share incubation process and duties. Once chicks are born, they are guarded by both parents for 29 days and then left unattended for approximately 40-70 days. Parents alternate guarding and feeding responsibilties. Chicks are fed every 1-3 days by either parents, and as they get older, the time between feeding periods increase. Depending on food availability, chicks may fledge 60-120 days after hatching.
(Todd 1981, William 1995) Key reproductive features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous .
Magellanic penguin colonies can be quite old. One colony in Punta Tomba, Argentina is estimated to be at least 114 years old, and home for at least million birds. They live in the company of Rockhopper and Gentoo penguins, but are relatively shy compared to Rockhoppers. Depending on where they live, habitat preference and temperament can be variable. Most Magellanic penguins prefer to live in large, densely packed colonies. Some may be wildly scattered and live in isolated groups with four or five pairs nesting. Both males and females fight over nesting sites, but fights are more common between two males. Most fights last only 1 min and usually ends with one bird chasing away the other. Males use sounds ('donkey-bray') to attract females to their nesting site. Pairs hit their bill tips against each other to represent courtship.
Magellanic Penguins usually hunt for food in groups, diving 6 m-90 m underwater. They are carnivorous in nature, and their diet includes squid, fish, crustaceans, and krill.
(Lynch 1997, William 1995) Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Penguin colonies are a tourist attraction in the Falkland Islands. Conservation Status
IUCN Red List: Near Threatened.
US Federal List: No special status.
CITES: No special status.
Since 1987, the Magellanic penguin population has declined by 20% globally. Study sites reveal Magellanic penguins throughout the Falklands have declined 70% in the last 10 years, a process that is still occurring. However, there is no sign of decline in South America (Lynch 1997, Falklands Wildlife Newsletter). Contributors
Caleb Wong (author), Fresno City College. Carl Johansson (editor), Fresno City College. References
"Falklands Wildlife Newsletter" (On-line). Accessed (Date Unknown) at http://www.seabirds.org/news.
Lynch, W. 1997. Penguins of the World. Willowdale, Ont.: Firefly Books.
Todd, F. 1981. The Sea World Book of Penguins. San Diego, California: Sea World Press.
William, T. 1995. The Penguins. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. 2009/04/26 05:02:26.211 GMT-4
Sources: Wong, C. 2001. "Spheniscus magellanicus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 01, 2009 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Spheniscus_magellanicus.html. Images courtesy of ARKive