- Cutting-edge video research reveals the unexpected feeding habits of Adélie penguins
The research was conducted using tiny video cameras which recorded the activity of the penguins providing a glimpse of life beneath the Antarctic ice. Footage from the research was released in December 2015 and became an internet sensation.
A year later, the results from the footage provide essential information about the penguin's behaviour. They reveal that Adélie penguins occasionally feed on jellyfish with visible gonads, even when their preferred food like krill seems to be available. The carbon and protein content of the gonads is greater than that of any other part of the jellyfish, which is the suspected reason for this habit.
Rod Downie, WWF Polar Programme Manager said:
“A year on from the release of the penguin cam footage, it’s clear that we still have a lot to learn about Adélie penguins and other ice species. The results give us a better understanding of how they might respond to climate change and related shifts in the Antarctic food web.
“The incredible response to this footage from our supporters has made studies like these possible, helping international efforts to protect the amazing waters that surround Antarctica.”
Jean-Baptiste Thiebot from the National Institute of Polar Science, Japan said:
“We were surprised to see the penguins go for jellyfish and it raised the question; is this new behaviour for Adélie penguins, possibly developed because they had a hard time finding food during this year of very unusual sea-ice conditions, or is it simply newly revealed by using this video approach to study their diet?
“To clarify this, we will need to see comparisons across different penguin species and different ocean regions. But these observations already reveal one more piece of the puzzle in the oceans’ food web.”
Climate change and potential competition with krill fishing are the Adélie penguin’s biggest threats. Understanding feeding habits of Adélie penguins will go a long way to understanding the threats that warming oceans and fishing activities might pose for this iconic species.
The cameras used in the research weighed between 15 and 22 grams and were recovered when the birds returned to their nests. The information gathered is helping the conservation group to create a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around Antarctica, which will protect the feeding grounds of penguins, seals and whales, and help to conserve one of the world's last great wildernesses.
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The penguin cam video footage can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phioDj7rnQQ
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WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
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