A brooding emperor penguin with its chick is approached by a rover camouflaged with a fake chick. According to a new study, published on November 2 in the journal Nature Methods, the remote-operated vehicle (rover) camouflaged as a penguin has been used by a team of scientists as a less harmful alternative to study the black n white birds in their natural habitat without disturbing them. Ecophysiologist and study author Yvon Le Maho, of the University of Strasbourg in France, led the team of scientists and film makers to observe the colonies of the emperor penguins on Adelie Land, Antarctica, the setting of 2005 documentary "March of the Penguins" and Possession Island - part of an archipelago called the French Galapagos with two-thirds of the world's population of king penguins. Having studied penguins for forty years, Le Maho had found that the common method of tagging king penguins with bands around their flippers, was harmful as made them nervous and potentially impaired their movement - especially in the water. Researchers had also eschewed the idea of tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags implanted under the skin - as radio antenna is required to be within two feet of the penguins to read tags. With the rover penguin the team of observers were able to view from over 650 feet (200 metres) away. Having alarmed the penguins with the initial fibreglass attempt, they had to wait until the fifth version - complete with grey fur, black arms, black and white face and a black beak before they were able to, successfully snuggle into the group. The king penguins were acceptant of the doppelgänger droid chick - allowing it to approach and join the group of real penguin chicks and even singing. Their heart rate increased but not nearly as much as when a person encroached. Emperor penguins are shy when compared to king penguins and half displayed no change in behaviour, with 28 percent reacting anxiously and 25 percent showing curiosity toward the rover. Fol at Antarctica - - Wednesday 5th November 2014 (1 Picture)
Fake Penguin Chick Rover
Photo credit: Credit: Nature Methods, Le Maho and colleagues
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