A team of researchers compare 15 king penguins and find out that penguins from areas of high human disturbance are less stressed by noise and approaching humans.
King penguins tolerate some, but not all, human interference. Research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal, BMC Ecology, investigated the adjustment of a king penguin colony on the protected Possession Island in the subantarctic Crozet Archipelago to over 50 years of constant human disturbance, reported sciencedaily.com.
A team of researchers from the University of Strasbourg and the University of Lausanne compared 15 king penguins breeding in areas disturbed daily by humans and 18 penguins breeding in undisturbed areas. All penguins selected were brooding a chick aged from two days to one month.
Using heart rate to indicate the stress level of each penguin, they compared the stress response of penguins from the different areas to three stressors. Two low intensity stressors, a human approach to 10 meters and a loud noise, mimicked the actions of tourists, researchers and noises from machines when operating on the outskirts of the colony. One high intensity stressor, a capture, simulated researchers taking measurements.
Compared with penguins from undisturbed areas, penguins from areas of high human disturbance were less stressed by noise and approaching humans, but following capture, their maximum relative heart rate increased 42 percent although they then recovered faster.