13 Jan 2011, 8:05pm
Latest Wildlife News Too Ludicrous For Words
by admin

Band of bothers

Researchers’ flipper bands can seriously dent penguin survival, and also skew the results of research.

by Daniel Cressey, NatureNews, 12 January 2024 [here]

Attaching bands to penguins’ flippers makes them easier for scientists to study, but may also up the birds’ death rates and lower their chances of reproducing.

A team studying king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) has rekindled this debate, which has been running for more than 30 years, and thrown up an additional concern. Not only do bands placed around the birds’ flippers make life more difficult for penguins, their effects also undermine the conclusions drawn from such studies.

Biologists have long feared that the tags, bands and transmitters they attach to animals could have a negative effect on their study subjects. The debate has been especially fraught where penguins are concerned because some studies have found problems with bands whereas others have found none.

Yvon Le Maho at the University of Strasbourg in France, an author of the current study, published in Nature, says that the time has come for ecologists to embrace new technologies and abandon flipper bands, “certainly as a precautionary principle”.

His group’s paper also highlights a wider issue: studies on penguins can and are being used to look at the effects of climate change on ecosystems. Le Maho and colleagues have previously used electronic tagging of king penguins to show that just 0.26 ºC of warming in sea-surface temperatures could trigger a 9% decline in adult survival2. If banding were used in such studies, its consequences on a population could cripple attempts to extrapolate a climate-linked trend from the data. … [more]

Note: possible subtitle: When Wildlife Biologists Are Toxic To The Animals They Study

A common phenomenon. In Hawaii the USGS-BRD wye-byes study endangered birds by climbing ladders to nests and removing the chicks to weigh and measure them. Then they put the chicks back in the nests. Interestingly, 100% of the chicks thusly man-handled die within a few hours. Must be global warming, eh?

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