Little Penguin Takes Deepest Dive

Subject: Little Penguin Takes Deepest Dive
From: (Andrew Taylor)
Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2002 08:46:41 +1100

 Little Penguin Takes Deepest Dive

Phillip Island Nature Park researchers are proving that penguins go
to enormous depths to find food with the announcement of the deepest
dive they have recorded by a Little Penguin. The male penguin, known
only as number 662036, was recorded diving to a depth of 57 metres,
breaking the previous record by three metres.

We have been recording how deep Little Penguins dive as part of a project
which combines new technologies to study where penguins find food, what
they eat and how this relates to breeding success, explained researcher
and project leader, Dr. Andre Chiaradia.

Of course, we are more concerned with how penguins use their foraging area
in three dimensions, rather than establishing records! said Dr. Chiaradia.

Our aim is to find out at which depth Little Penguins are searching and
finding food. So far we found that our Little Penguins use the whole
water column when searching for food rather than only the top layer,
as it has been found elsewhere. said Dr Chiaradia.

To understand the behaviour of Little Penguins at sea is the first step
to identify threats and provide solutions to marine-based problems. Dr
Chiaradia said.

This research uses an ingenious time-depth recorder (TDR) placed on the
back of the penguins with a special, sticky tape. The TDR records depth
and temperature every two seconds, which provides accurate information
on how deep penguins go and at which water temperature they search for
food. Dr Chiaradia said.

How deep Little Penguins dive has remained a mystery to humans until
recently because the technology required could not be made small
enough. Although TDRs have been used on bigger penguins for more than
20 years, they have only recently been built small enough to be used on
the world's smallest penguin. Dr Chiaradia said.

The study began last year and is sponsored by BHP-Billiton. Since the
project began, Dr Chiaradia and Julija Yorke, an Honours student from
the University of Melbourne, have deployed more than 50 penguins with
TDRs and recorded over 100,000 dives.

A Little Penguin's scientific name Eudyptula minor, means good little
diver - it seems they are proving to live up to their name!

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