Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Future Of The Rockhopper Penguin

Researchers Look To The Past To Help The Future Of The Rockhopper Penguin

Researchers at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in Wellington are studying the diets of our rockhopper penguins to see why the penguin population is declining. David Thompson, leader of the study, said that by analysing chemicals in the feathers of penguins held in museum collections, valuable information can be gathered about their eating habits from the past 150 years.

"The penguin population at Campbell Island has declined by 90 per cent since the 1940s," said Dr Thompson.

"The negative effects of fishing are often blamed for the deaths of our seabirds, but this is not the case for the rockhopper penguin. There is no obvious link between the decline of the rockhopper penguin and fishing practice.

"The reasons for their dramatic decline remain unclear, although several ideas have been put forward. These include changes in sea temperature, which in turn have resulted in a change in food availability or abundance."

The research, an investment by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, is studying the penguins at their two main breeding sites in New Zealand, Campbell Island and Antipodes Island.

"As a starting point, we are testing the idea that penguin diet has changed over the last 100 years. We believe they may be eating fish which are not their first or favourite option," said Dr Thompson.

"This is a difficult question to answer because there is no dietary data from before the 1940s and nobody knows what rockhopper penguins ate when their population was large and stable."

By studying penguin feathers, the researchers have been able to find valuable information about the particular carbon and nitrogen levels which reflect what the penguins had been eating.

"Feathers trap this dietary information, and, luckily, museums hold collections of penguins dating back to the middle of the nineteenth century."

By comparing information within the feathers of both museum and contemporary rockhopper penguins, the researchers will be able to say whether there has been a change in penguin diet. They can then assess whether this occurred at the same time as the population began to decline.

"We have been collaborating with penguin workers in the south Atlantic and Indian Oceans. We hope to be able to investigate long-term changes in penguin diet at all the major breeding sites, placing this research on a truly international footing," said Dr Thompson.

For further information:

David Thompson, NIWA, Tel 04 386 0566 email d.thompson@niwa.cri.nz

Madeleine Setchell Communications Adviser Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Tel 04 9177806 Mobile 025 40 60 40 www.frst.govt.nz


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Dry: Beef + Lamb Launches Drought Resources

The resources include a fact sheet outlining strategies to manage and mitigate the effects of drought, coping with stress on the farm and advice on feed requirements and animal welfare during the dry period. More>>

ALSO:

InternetNZ: Net Neutrality Failure In US "Will Hurt All Users"

InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter has condemned the decision by the United States communications regulator to undo 2015 open Internet rules, warning that all Internet users will end up worse off as a result. More>>

ALSO:

Mycoplasma Bovis: More Properties Positive

One of the latest infected properties is in the Hastings district, the other three are within a farming enterprise in Winton. The suspect property is near Ashburton. More>>

ALSO:

Manawatū Gorge Alternative: More Work Needed To Choose Route

“We are currently working closely and in partnership with local councils and other stakeholders to make the right long-term decision. It’s vital we have strong support on the new route as it will represent a very significant long-term investment and it will need to serve the region and the country for decades to come.” More>>

ALSO:

ScoopPro: Helping PR Professionals Get More Out Of Scoop

Scoop.co.nz has been a fixture of New Zealand’s news and Public Relations infrastructure for over 18 years. However, without the financial assistance of those using Scoop in a professional context in key sectors such as Public Relations and media, Scoop will not be able to continue this service... More>>