These Penguincams Are the Break From Chaos Everyone Needs Right Now

To study how Antarctic Gentoo penguins communicate while out on the water, scientists attached ‘penguincams’ to their bodies and the footage is great.

Gentoo penguins are open-ocean foragers. That means they hunt for fish and krill far out into the water, which makes it even harder for scientists to study them—not only are they in Antarctica, the least populated continent on the planet, they’re out on the open ocean, which isn’t easy to access either. Scientists from the Korea Polar Research Institute in Incheon, South Korea had to figure out another way of observing them. And like any good scientists, they did so by attaching cameras to penguins. I’m in the wrong line of work.

Video: Choi et al; Scientific Reports

In their study published Thursday in Scientific Reports, the team describes how they collected 598 calls from 10 penguins over two years, using bio-loggers—devices that connect to a living animal to log their behaviour. (In this case, cylindrical waterproof cameras attached to the penguin’s head and back.)

A penguin with a bio-logger on its head. Image: Won Young Lee

They found that penguins could be using vocal calls to group up and communicate with each other while out on the water. After a penguin uttered what researchers identified as an “offshore call,” the group was observed moving more in sync, and closer to the surface. We reached out to the study authors, who weren’t able to respond to our request by deadline.

Video: Choi et al; Scientific Reports

This has helped scientists understand how penguins communicate during their open ocean foraging trips, either to protect themselves against predators, or to share information about where food might be.

Read More: I Chilled With Penguins and an Ice-Preserving Bot on a Glacier in Antarctica

There’s something comforting in watching a penguin live its life and talk to its friends, without the knowledge that its every movement is being recorded and broadcast. Who knows? Maybe someday people will be able to hook up their virtual reality headsets and just chill out as penguins for a minute. We can all dream.

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