Penguin shit is more useful than you think

In the traditional impression of the public, Antarctica is a vast expanse of white.

But in fact, Antarctica can still be pink.

Adelie Penguin feces stained with red snow, the picture also clearly shows the colored “penguin highway”

The pink dung of Adelie penguins is colouring the snow-white Antarctic continent.

Because the penguin population is so large and stretching, we can even see this bright pink (or reddish brown) in space.

Nevertheless, don’t overflow girls’hearts with Penguin pink dung. If you’re in the Antarctic, you’re bound to collapse. Penguin dung is pink, but it still tastes good.

figcaption> powder-turning Adelie penguin, Zhenxiang

When krill is overeaten, Penguin excrement turns pink or reddish brown. Krill is commercially captured to produce pet food and nutritional supplements. In the ocean, krill also feeds numerous marine animals.

But astaxanthin, the natural pigment in krill, stains their stools red. Hence, where the penguin flock gathers, there is always a bright red colour, accompanied by a fishy and stinky smell of penguin excrement.

figcaption> Blue whales eat a large amount of krill every day, and their feces turn to powder

Stinky fish and rotten shrimp are always paired, and blue silverfish is one of the main food sources for penguins. So the colour of penguin excrement changes with the recipe.

However, whether fish or shrimp, the stink of penguin excrement can always be suffocating. Almost everyone who has ever set foot in Antarctica will never forget this smell. most of the people who came back from Antarctica will praise penguins’ loveliness and their excrement is very smelly.

Penguin fecal stains in satellite images, source: DigitalGlobe/British Antarctic Survey

But don’t tell me, this stinky and dirty Penguin excrement is really useful.

First of all, penguin’s dark dung can accelerate the melting of ice and snow, which is conducive to the life-long event of breeding offspring.

The temperature in Antarctica is very low. Ice and snow always cover the ground. In order to prevent their own baby eggs from freezing into ice, they are determined not to put eggs on the cold snow. At this time, a hot bubble of feces is particularly important.

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Penguin defecation can dye the white snow into pink or even brown.

Dark color absorbs more heat from the sun than white. Over time, the ice and snow covered with feces will melt enough heat.

So every mating season, these penguins gather together. Together, they sprayed dung on the ice, opening up nurseries for children.


Don’t underestimate the power of penguin dung. A study has shown that when an Adelie Penguin empties, the intestinal tract produces four times as much stress as humans.

Put your buttocks up, lean forward a little, and then lift your tail feathers, its feces can be projected 40 centimeters away. You know, penguins are about 60 centimeters tall.

The researchers also won the 2005 Ig Nobel Prize for studying the pressure of feces in Adelie penguins.


So, as long as the place chosen by the penguin, it is bound to be a large area of bare rock.

And the larger the penguin breeding area, the larger the area covered by stool. Humans hate the dirty penguins, but they laugh at the fact that they can’t see through. It stinks, but it’s the warmest home for baby penguins.

Where there are animals, there must be excrement. Conversely, using excreta to track the animal’s whereabouts is best.

In Antarctica, the penguin population is so large. Looking down in space, penguin’s dark dung is like a stain on a white shirt, especially striking. Therefore, the fecal stain of penguins has become an important basis for scientists to study penguin population and habitat.

Antarctica is the sensitive nerve of global climate change, which will directly affect the number of penguins.

But the task of census penguins is arduous. Scientists are more difficult than they think to work in the harsh, sparsely populated Antarctic. So Penguin excrement became a breakthrough in research.

In 2009, during an aerial study of emperor penguins, researchers found huge pieces of excrement on the ground. Using feces, they can accurately infer the location of the penguin’s habitat. Since then, scientists have learned to look at Penguin droppings from the air and find more Penguin habitats.


Penguin fecal stains under Google Earth

In addition, according to the size of penguin fecal stains, human beings can also infer the population number of penguin habitats from satellite images .

First, the brown pixels on the white ice are searched through satellite images to confirm the location of the penguin’s habitat. Then the number of penguins is observed and calculated by high-definition images.

This method greatly improves the efficiency of penguin-related ecology research. Scientists can get a lot of useful information without having to go to the scene.

A corner of Adelie Penguin habitat captured in satellite images

For example, in 2018, Heather Lynch and his team, a professor of ecology at Stony Brook University in the United States, used this method to discover a new, super-large Adelie Penguin habitat .

There are about 1.5 million Adelie penguins resting on this remote island group. But no one had ever found Adelie penguins on it before.

figcaption> The location of 1.5 million Adelie penguins’Danger Islands in Antarctic maps

Even in the summer of Antarctica, the islands are surrounded by thick sea ice. Therefore, the archipelago is also named < strong > Danger Islands.

It can be said that it is far in the horizon, close at hand. Few researchers visit the island because of the danger and the difficulty of getting there. For the same reason, the scientific community did not expect the small Adelie penguin to reach this “barren land”.

figcaption>Researchers boarded the Dangerous Islands

That is to say, in the thousands of years before that, no one knew that there were so many penguins on the island. The 1.5 million Adelie penguins were not first discovered until the unusual Brown pixels on the island were detected on satellite maps.

At that time, Heather Lynch and his team had developed a automated detection algorithm that could automatically mark different pixels in a picture. Over the past 10 months, they have detected every cloud-free satellite image on the Antarctic continent.

What is the concept of 1.5 million Adelie penguins? This is half the sum of the rest of the Antarctic Peninsula. For modern society, this is an incredible thing, just like a “great geographic discovery”.

Since the 1990s, the number of Adeli penguins has been steadily decreasing. Because it has been impossible to determine the cause, we are all worried about these little lovely destinies. So when the news was released, people were naturally excited and excited about it. The population that had been slowly declining in the past was suddenly upgraded by Adelie penguins hidden in the Dangerous Islands.

dense Adelie penguins on dangerous islands

If you’re interested in looking for Penguin shit, you can also experience it personally through Google Earth’s satellite map.

To capture all the penguin habitats in Antarctica, Professor Heather Lynch and his team also launched the MAPPPD project. And this project is also known as “Look for penguins”. They hope to rely on the strength of the masses, combined with satellite imagery to find out the penguin population information. Strong and they are convinced that there must have been a lot of leaky birds in past searches.

figcaption>MAPPPD project web interface, address

But when it comes to excrement, its constant purpose is its use as a fertilizer. The feces of penguins, in fact, nourish the whole barren Antarctic continent and feed many small animals.

Penguin excrement contains rich nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. With these pools, Antarctic organisms can show their diversity and vitality. In the past, scientists have ignored the power of penguin excrement.


A recent study found that penguins can affect biodiversity up to 1000 meters. The closer to the penguin habitat, the more vibrant the entire food chain is.

The greatest benefit is soil. Penguin excrement evaporates partially into ammonia, which is then blown into the soil by the wind. This provides sufficient nitrogen for primary producers. According to the researchers, there are millions of invertebrates in every square meter of soil. This species is eight times richer than other regions.

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Penguins are the number one nutritionist in Antarctica, and their excrement is the great savior of other small animals. So besides being cute, penguins are not useless, at least they need to admit that they are “stinky and useful”.

* References

Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow, Jozsef Gal.Pressures produced when penguins pooh-calculations on avian defaetion.Polar Biology.2003.12

em>Jason Daley.Adelie Penguins So Much, Their Feces Can Seen From.Smithian.2018.12.13
Multi-modal survey of Ad lie Penem Guin mega-colonies reveals the Danger Islands as a seabird hotspot.nature.2018.03
br>br>em>Influential excrement: How life in Antarctica thrives on penguin poop.2019.05.09br>br>

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