Scientists have built a rover that looks like a fluffy penguin chick, allowing it to sneak around Antarctic colonies and get close to individual birds without ruffling too many feathers along the way. (Los Angeles Times)
Teachers, scroll all the way down for a short list of key resources in our “Teachers’ Toolkit.”
- According to the L.A. Times, researchers in Antarctica are using a rover (remotely operated vehicle) disguised as a penguin check “to collect data on their phenotypic traits.” What are phenotypic traits?
- Phenotypic traits are observable expressions of an organism’s genes. Examples of an emperor penguin’s phenotypic traits might include its distinctive coloring or the length of its beak.
- Why are the researchers using robo-penguin instead of collecting data themselves?
- Using the small rover reduces stress among the penguins. According to the L.A. Times, “A human who invaded a penguin’s personal space caused the bird’s heart rate to jack up much higher than a rover did, the researchers found—and the effect from the human encounter lasted much longer, too. ‘Human approaches led to an excess in [heart rate] approximately four times larger than that due to rover approaches,’ they wrote.”
- Why would the researchers need to get so close to the penguins in the first place?
- They are collecting data by picking up radio signals from tiny devices placed beneath the animals’ skin. Sometimes, researchers or robo-penguin need to get as close as 60 centimeters—that’s less than two feet—to collect data.
- Watch “Emperor Penguins on Ice,” our video of photographer Paul Nicklen on assignment with penguins in Antarctica. Could Paul have used robo-penguin to help him get all the footage he collected?
- Nope. First of all, robo-penguin does not have the skills of Paul Nicklen—check out this gorgeous penguin gallery! (And all the photos in this blog post.)
- Second, Paul braved the chilly waters of the Antarctic to get those beautiful images. Robo-penguin is limited to terrestrial adventures.
- One of robo-penguin’s duties was to “infiltrate a crèche.” What is a crèche?
- A crèche is a place where animals (usually birds) take care of young that are not their own.
Los Angeles Times: Robot baby penguin infiltrates Antarctic colony
Nat Geo video: Emperor Penguins on Ice
Paul Nicklen Photography: Emperor Penguins gallery