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

 




Civil Contractors: Massive Rebound In Civil Construction Business Confidence

New Zealand’s civil construction industry is riding a massive rebound in post-pandemic business confidence – but this may be undermined by skills shortages, which continue to be the industry’s number one challenge... More>>



Energy: Feeling Our Way Towards Hydrogen - Tina Schirr

Right now hydrogen is getting a lot of attention. Many countries are focusing on producing hydrogen for fuel, or procuring it, or planning for its future use... More>>

Maritime Union: Calls For New Zealand Shipping To Resolve Supply Chain Crisis

The Maritime Union says there needs to be innovative responses to ongoing shipping congestion. Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says it is essential that New Zealand develops its own shipping capacity... More>>


Housing: New Home Consents Continue To Break Records

A record 44,299 new homes were consented in the year ended June 2021, Stats NZ said today. “The annual number of new homes consented rose again in the June 2021 year, the fourth consecutive month of rises,” construction statistics manager Michael Heslop said... More>>


Real Estate: June Home Transfers Remain High
There were 44,517 home transfers in the June 2021 quarter, the highest June quarter figure since 2016, Stats NZ said today. The number of home transfers was very similar to the March 2021 quarter and was up 18,252 from the June 2020 quarter... More>>



Statistics: Household Saving Falls In The March 2021 Quarter

Saving by New Zealanders in the March 2021 quarter fell to its lowest level in two years after rising sharply in 2020, Stats NZ said today. Increases in household spending outpaced income growth, leading to a decline in household saving from the elevated levels that prevailed throughout 2020... More>>

ALSO: