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Posts Tagged ‘penguin’

Art: Senckenberg
The discovery of one of the oldest penguin fossils in the world reveals higher diversity of early penguins than previously thought.

Whenever I am tempted to think that everything on the planet has been discovered, a new fossil turns up.

Melissa Breyer writes at TreeHugger that a recently unearthed penguin fossil is responsible for a small but significant adjustment to how we see our world.

“Along the Waipara River in New Zealand’s Canterbury region are sites rich in avian fossils, many of which were entombed in marine sand not long (relatively speaking) after the extinction of the dinosaurs.

“One of the more intriguing fossil finds there of late is that of a giant penguin discovered by ornithologist Dr. Gerald Mayr from the Senckenberg Society for Natural Research and a team of colleagues from New Zealand. The Waimanu penguin had a man-sized body length of 150 centimeters (5 feet) and … is among the oldest penguin fossils in the world.

“But what makes the Waimanu even more interesting is that the bones are significantly different from other penguin fossils from the same time period, revealing that the diversity of Paleocene penguins was higher than previously thought. …

” ‘This diversity indicates that the first representatives of penguins already arose during the age of dinosaurs.’ ” More here.

Pretty funny that in order to illustrate the size of the newly found penguin relative to a grown man, the Senckenberg Society put the man in a “penguin suit.”

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How lovable is this? Sheepdogs that protect a tiny species of penguin from predators.

Austin Ramzey writes at the NY Times about an effort to counteract “Australia’s long history of imported species’ decimating native wildlife. … The toll on Middle Island, off Victoria State in southern Australia, kept rising. By 2005, the small island’s penguin population, which had once numbered 800, was below 10.

“Today, their numbers are back in the triple digits, and much of the credit has gone to a local chicken farmer known as Swampy Marsh and his strong-willed sheepdogs.

“ ‘The powers that be wouldn’t listen to me until it got down to six penguins,’ said Mr. Marsh, whose long-unused birth name is Allan. ‘They were desperate.’

“The farmer’s simple solution — deploy a particularly territorial breed of sheepdog to scare the foxes away — became local legend and, in September, the subject of an Australian film, ‘Oddball,’ which fictionalized the story and made a lovable hero of one of the dogs. The strategy is now being tried elsewhere in Victoria, in hopes of protecting other indigenous species from non-native predators. …

“Maremma dogs are self-reliant; they can be left to defend a patch of land for long periods of time with a supply of food and water that they know not to wolf down right away. During the summer, when foxes pose the greatest danger to Middle Island’s penguins because of tidal patterns that form sandbars, the dogs can stay on the island for several days in a row, watching over the birds from a raised walkway.

“Training them for the job involves introducing them to the penguin’s distinct odor. ‘Penguins don’t smell particularly nice,’ said Peter Abbott, manager of tourism services for the Warrnambool City Council. ‘They look cute and cuddly, but they smell like dead fish.’ Gradually, the dogs are taught to treat the penguins like any other kind of livestock, to be defended and not harmed.’ ”

The article explains that “when red foxes were imported for sport hunting in the 19th century, they found the tiny, flightless birds to be easy prey.” More here.

Photo: David Maurice Smith/NYT
A little penguin, the name of the smallest penguin species. Middle Island’s penguin population, protected by sheepdogs, has rebounded to 150. 

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Photo: AP Images/Associated Press

You can’t make these things up.

Jenni Ryall writes at Mashable, “Australia’s oldest man has spent a lot of his days knitting sweaters for little penguins. Alfred ‘Alfie’ Date spoke to 9 Stories about how his inability to say ‘no’ to favours got him into making the miniature animal clothes.

“The jerseys were requested from Victoria’s Phillip Island Penguin Foundation in 2013, to assist the survival of little penguins after an oil spill. Little penguins are a species of penguin only found in southern Australia and New Zealand, with a lone colony of 32,000 remaining on Phillip Island.

“The 109-year-old, who lives in a retirement home on the New South Wales Central Coast, was asked by two nurses to help make the sweaters, as they had heard he was an experienced knitter. It was a request he could not refuse. Using heavy wool provided by the nurses, Alfie put his 80 years of knitting skills to good use and got to work. …

“When oiled penguins arrive at the foundation, they are given a jacket to wear so that they don’t consume the toxins or preen their feathers. In 2001, 438 penguins were affected in an oil spill at Phillip Island and by using the knitted outfits, 96% of the penguins were rehabilitated at the clinic, according to the foundation’s website.”

More at Mashable, here.

Photo: PINP/AAT Kings/Spotlight/Rex Feat
Penguin sweaters worn by stuffed toys at Phillip Island.

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The independent bookstore where I live is assuming the whole town knows that the publisher Hachette is fighting with Amazon. I say that because it has devoted a whole window to Hachette books, with a statement about carrying any book you want but no statement about the Amazon fight.

Amazon may finally have gone too far. People are fighting back against its absolute power. Asakiyume, for example, is practically a one-woman campaign to get its warehouse staff better working conditions.

And there are other initiatives. Jennifer Rankin writes at the Guardian, “Independent booksellers are being sent reinforcements in the battle against Amazon …

“My Independent Bookshop, a social network for book lovers from Penguin Random House, [is] an online space where anyone can review their favourite books and show off their good taste on virtual shelves.

“Crucially, readers can also buy books from the site, with a small proportion of takings going to support scores of local independent book stores. …

“A reader’s nominated home store – which doesn’t have to be geographically close – will get 5% of the revenues from every physical book they buy and 8% on an ebook. The site is a tie-up with the e-commerce website Hive, which has been offering a similar service to local shops since 2011.”

Read more at the Guardian, here. Check out the lively comments there, too.

Photo: Sarah Lee for the Guardian
The new Penguin Random House may give independent booksellers a boost in online sales. 

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