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Tue June 2, 2009
The poop on finding penguins: Follow the guano
WASHINGTON (AP) – WASHINGTON (AP) - It does a number on researchers' boots and smells really bad, but the fact that penguin poo on Antarctic ice can be spotted from space is helping researchers.
In an area about one-and-a-half times bigger than the United States, researchers have been unable to figure out just where colonies of emperor penguins live and if their population is in peril.
But because the large penguins stay on the same ice for months, their poo stains make them stand out from space.
Scientists at the British Antarctic Survey found this out by accident when they were looking at satellite images of their bases.
Survey mapping scientist Peter Fretwell says that using satellite data, the scientists found 10 new colonies of penguins, six that had moved and another six that seemed to have disappeared.
"Penguins From Space" is in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.