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Satellite images of Antarctica show an increase in emperor penguin colonies in the area. 11 previously unknown colonies were discovered through satellite images of the birds’ guano patches.

Good news for the species, as this boosts the population of the penguins by 20%. New satellites make tracking the penguins easier as they can pick up smaller colonies.

Scientists are optimistic about the discovery. The [new colonies] are an exciting discovery,” Peter Fretwell, at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), who led the research, told the Guardian. “Whilst this is good news, the colonies are small and so only take the overall population count up to just over half a million penguins.”

Philip Trathan, also at BAS, told the outlet, “The new breeding sites are all in locations where recent model projections suggest emperor penguins will decline. These birds are therefore probably the canaries in the coalmine – we need to watch these sites carefully as climate change will affect this region.”Since emperor penguins breed on sea ice, they are vulnerable to climate change. They are the only penguin species to do so.

The colonies are thought to include a few hundred penguins each, on the small size for the colonies. And two colonies were found in places penguins had never been found before. Penguins usually congregate in stable sea ice attached to land to breed successfully, but these colonies were found near the coast, said Fretwell.

Read more about penguins and Antarctica in One Green Planet, check out these articles:

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