Thursday, November 24, 2011

23 November What kind of penguin is that?

What kind of penguin is that?
Over the past few days we have been seeing lots of penguins! There are four main types of penguins along the Western Antarctic Peninsula, where we have been sampling:  Gentoo, Chinstrap, and Adelie.
Gentoo penguins (Pygiscekus papua) can easily be spotted by their slim orange-red beak.  Another distinctive feature is a patch of white feathers behind the eye.

Here are some Gentoos we saw on last years cruise.  They are  “porpoising “ – they leap out of the water as they swim, much like porpoises, which allows them to breathe while swimming. Photo by K. Wurtzell
Adelie Penguins (Pygoscelis adelia) can be identified by their black face and white eye ring.  They are smaller than Gentoos.   There is an Adelie breeding colony right by Palmer Station.

An Adelie penguin on a small iceberg during last year's cruise. Photo by J. Warren.
We have seen mostly Chinstrap Penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus) this year.  They can be intensified by a thin black line that goes across their face, like the chinstrap of a helmet. Over the past few days there have been frequent groups of Chinstrap Penguins swimming by the LMG. Interesting fact -  Chinstraps are known to enjoy a “room with a view” and will use their bill as an “ice-pick” to climb up ice!  Cool!

 Some Chinstrap Penguins swimming near the ship.  I think they were just as curious of us as we were of them!
Everyone loves seeing the penguins!  It’s important to remember that our research – studying the zooplankton community, ties into penguins also.  Because krill are a major food source for all three of these penguin species, by understanding krill, we can indirectly learn about penguins, too!!

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