December 7, 2011 Hanging Out with the Penguins
All about Adelies
Yesterday I spent the afternoon at an Adelie penguin rookery at Cape Byrd. Adelie penguins are smaller than most penguins. They are approximately 18 - 30 inches tall and typically weigh 8 to 13 lbs. They have a white ring around each of their eyes and a long tail that makes their coat resemble a tuxedo.
It was fun to watch the Adelies waddle and hop around their rookery. There were also some interesting interactions between the penguins. Watch the video below to see some of their behaviors.
The Adelie Penguins, or Pygoscelis adeliae are one of three species in the genus Pygoscelis. After studying their DNA, scientists believe that the genus Pygoscelis split from other penguins around 38 million years ago. Around 19 million years ago, Adelie penguins are believed to have split off from their genus.
Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Order: Sphenisciformes Family: Spheniscidea Genus: Pygoscelis
Naming the Adelies
The Adelie Penguins were named after the wife of French explorer, Jules Dumont d'Urville. d'Urville crossed the Antarctic Circle and landed on a rocky island in Antarctica on January 19, 1840. A French research base, appropriately named Dumont d'Urville Station, was established near the area in 1956 and still operates today. The documentary, March of the Penguins, was filmed near the base.
Breeding and Behavior
The Adelie penguins build their nests out of stones in large groups called rookeries. Sometimes penguins will steal rocks from each other's nests, which causes fights and squabbling. The penguins breed from October to February on the shores of Antarctica and each female lays two eggs. The eggs incubate for approximately 33 days. The parents share the task of incubating the eggs. Each parent lies on the eggs for about 12 days while the other parent feeds on krill and fish in the nearby water. Once hatched, the chicks remain in the nest for about 22 days. When the chicks are approximately 55 days old, they molt and take their first plunge into the ocean.
Interesting facts about Adelies
There are 38 colonies of Adelie Penguins and over 5 million Adelies in the Ross Sea region.
There are aproximately 500,000 Adelie Penguins on Ross Island
Adelies migrate an average of 13,000 kilometers during the year.
Adelies can swim up to 45 miles per hour
Predators of the Adelie Penguins include leopard seals, killer whales, skuas, and Antarctic giant petrels.
Adelies feed on krill, fish and squid. They had a sudden change from a more fish-based diet to a more krill-based diet 200 years ago, most likely because of the decline of the Antarctic Fur Seal and Baleen Whales, which had previously fed on krill.
Adelie penguins live on the sea ice in the winter and spring. Research shows that over the past 25 years, the population of Adelie penguins has dropped by 65%. This may be due to the reduction in sea ice and food found in their region.
Scientists who study penguins spend a lot of time observing their behavior. Watch the video of the Adelie Penguins. What observations can you make about the penguins?
Look at the "Interesting Facts about Adelies" section. Why did the penguin's feeding habits change? How does this relate to food webs?
If there are 38 colonies and around 10 million Adelie Penguins, what is the average number of penguins in each colony?
If Adelies swim 45 miles per hour, how many miles can they travel in 8 hours?
Cool Careers in Antarctica
Meet Tressa Gibbard. Tressa is a General Assistant (GA) in Antarctica. This is her first time down here and she applied for the job because Tressa's friend told her it was the best time of her life. As a GA, Tressa does something different every day, helping out all over McMurdo Station. She works at the BFC (Berg Field Center), in the Waste Center, helps out at Crary lab and often shovels snow! Her most memorable experience so far was being in the field at AGO 1 (where I will be in mid-December!). Setting up tents there was quite a challenge--it took around half an hour to set up a tent with three people helping out, and it was in -66 degree Fahrenheit temperatures! Her advice to students is to figure out what you really like to do and follow your bliss.