Penguin Ranch [LiveScience 2008-04-15]
Emperor penguins often access the sea—and their prey of fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods— through holes in Antarctic sea ice. These penguins are residents of Penguin Ranch, a research outpost about 15 miles out from the coast on the frozen McMurdo Sound in Antarctica.
Paul Ponganis of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is both a medical doctor (anesthesiologist) and marine biologist and has been studying emperor penguins in Antarctica for more than two decades. He helps run the Ranch, a large, fenced-in area that plays host each winter to a number of the giant birds. Because the penguins only have access to the holes provided on site during the study period, the animals dive in and out right in front of the scientists who keep close tabs on the animals and their behavior.
With the help of special penguin-mounted cameras and other devices, the researchers learn not only how the animals live their day to day lives but also learn how the birds regulate oxygen for long, deep dives – a skill that is helping researchers understand hypoxia in people.
Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UC San Diego.