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Banded Penguins Skew Climate Data

Banded Penguins Skew Climate Data - Tagging penguins with flipper bands harms their chances of survival and breeding, a finding which raises doubts over studies that use these birds as telltales for climate change, biologists said on Wednesday.

The metal bands, looped tightly around the top of the flipper where it meets the body, have long been used as a low-cost visual aid by researchers to identify individual penguins when they waddle ashore.

Foot tags are not used because of the penguin's anatomical shape.

But, says the new study, the seemingly harmless bands affect the penguin's swimming performance, causing it to waste more energy in foraging for food, sometimes with life-threatening consequences.

Banded Penguins Skew Climate Data

Publishing in the journal Nature, French and Norwegian scientists reported that they took 100 king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus), selected at random on Possession Island on the Crozet archipelago, a sub-Antarctic group in the southern Indian ocean.

All were tagged with a minute, electronic transponder that was implanted under the skin, which can only be read by using specialist equipment placed close to the bird. Fifty of the 100 birds were additionally given a flipper band.

The team then recorded sightings of the group over the next 10 years.

Banded birds were 16 percent likelier to die than non-banded counterparts, and had 39 percent fewer chicks, they report.

Banded Penguins Skew Climate Data

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