A gentoo parent with bio-loggers on its back and head Credit: Won Young Lee

Penguincam: like GoPro, but for penguins

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Gentoo penguins are notoriously hard to study as they forage in the open ocean between the sub-Antarctic islands and Antarctica. So Korean researchers attached video cameras — GoPro style — to find out how they vocally communicate when foraging for food. Half of the calls the penguins made when offshore caused individuals to quickly form groups, suggesting that communication was more about grouping than food. But they also found that after calling out penguins made shorter, shallower dives and moved onto new areas, suggesting that the vocal calls probably have a number of functions.

Journal/conference: Scientific Reports

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-07900-7

Organisation/s: Korea Polar Research Institute, Republic of Korea

Funder: This research was supported by the Long-Term Ecological Researches on King George Island to Predict Ecosystem Responses to Climate Change (PE16020) and Development of Environmental Monitoring Techniques of Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA No. 171) (PG15040 and PG16040) funded by Korea Polar Research Institute.

Media Release

From: Springer Nature

Animal behaviour: Penguincam — Calls from the sea

A description of the vocal behaviour of Gentoo penguins in the open ocean and the functional role of these calls, recorded using animal-borne video cameras, is discussed in Scientific Reports this week.

Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are found on sub-Antarctic islands and in the Antarctic region, and primarily prey in groups on krill and fish. However, the inaccessibility of the open-ocean foraging sites of penguins to researchers has precluded the study of the vocal repertoires used during foraging trips.

Won Young Lee and colleagues recorded the foraging behaviour of Gentoo penguins from King George Island in Antarctica over two breeding seasons (2014—2015 and 2015—2016), using animal-borne video cameras. The authors collected 598 offshore calls from 10 individuals and analysed the acoustic characteristics and behavioural contexts of these calls. The authors found that in almost half of the calls, individuals formed groups within one minute following an offshore call. The penguins did not show any significant difference in the proportion of foraging dives or prey rate capture before and after producing an offshore call, which may suggest that the call was involved in group contact rather than relating to food. However, the authors observed that after producing offshore calls, the penguins undertook shallower, shorter dives and that they travelled to a new area instead of lingering in a particular spot. The authors hypothesize that the penguins may use vocal communications for grouping purposes during foraging trips.

The authors note that further investigations are required to better understand the aquatic life of these penguins.


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    Video 1 Credit: Choi et al; Scientific Reports
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    Video 2 Credit: Choi et al; Scientific Reports
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    Video 3 Credit: Choi et al; Scientific Reports

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