Slick birds are wearing wool
Knitted pullovers protect penguins from oil discharge
Pullovers are in this season for Phillip Island penguins.
© Penguin parade
Penguins on parade: normally the birds show off their natural good looks every night.
© Penguin parade
Knitters around the world have pulled together to save thousands of oil-soaked little penguins on Phillip Island, southern Australia.
Ten thousand penguin-sized, pure-wool jumpers have flooded into the offices of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust in response to their call for emergency insulation for a vulnerable population of world’s smallest penguins - sometimes known as fairy penguins.
In mid-December 2001 a crude slick from an illegal discharge washed into the bird’s shoreline rookeries. The oil threatened the breeding stock, clogging their waterproof insulating feathers, and preventing them making daily mid-ocean forays in search of food.
Conservation workers moved fast to save the birds from starvation, hypothermia and oil poisoning. To protect and rehabilitate the tiny penguins after they’d been caught and washed, researchers hit upon a plan to harness the efficient insulating properties of wool, and tap into the enthusiasm of the local community.
They published a plea and a knitting pattern for penguin jumpers in the Aged Pension News, a free newspaper circulated to elderly Australians.
When the story was picked up by BBC radio, the plight of the penguins became international. Jumpers started arriving from around the world, in all colours and fashions including local football team strips. Demand has now been more than met, and the small sweaters are being stockpiled in future ’oil spill response kits’.
The tight-fitting woollens provide ideal temporary protection for the birds until their diving feathers regain their natural condition. Like feathers, wool fibres are made of keratins and amino acids, and are extremely efficient natural insulators. The fibres’ tight crimp and natural oils make them water repellent. Yet they are also warming when wet thanks to their heat-producing chemical reactions with moisture.
Before having fashions to flaunt, Phillip Island’s endangered population of little penguins was a renowned tourist attraction for its nightly parade of a different kind. After dusk, hundreds of penguins returning from daily fishing trips gather on the beach and waddle en masse to their burrows in sand dunes.
JAMES PORTEOUS | © Nature News Service
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...