Scientists Discover Hidden ‘Supercolony’ of 1.5 Million Penguins After Tracking Poop From Space

Scientist: We are running out of penguins due to climate change.

Other Scientist: Nope.

Imagine if your community pooped so much it was visible from space. A supercolony of 1.5 million Antarctic Adélie penguins has bragging rights to this achievement, after scientists discovered the birds thanks to satellite images of their pink guano.

Despite its large population, the colony has managed to remain off the maps since it first took roost on the Danger Islands some 3,000 years ago. The archipelago, which is named for the dangerous ice cover that surrounds it even in the summer, sits near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, and has barely been explored.

But when scientists developed an algorithm for detecting penguin guano in NASA Landsat imagery, the Danger Islands showed up as an untapped hotspot.

“We thought that we knew where all the penguin colonies were,” said Heather Lynch, a Stony Brook University ecologist, at a news conference during the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting last week. “But in fact, this small archipelago, that measures only 15 kilometers from one end to the other, [has] more Adélie penguins than the entire rest of the Antarctic peninsula combined.

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