WASHINGTON – The newest tool for biologists is the baby penguin robotic spy.
It’s pretty darn cute, and so convincing that penguins essentially talk to it, as if it is a potential mate for their chicks.
Emperor penguins are notoriously shy. When researchers approach, these penguins normally back away and their heart rate goes up. That’s not what the scientists need when they want to check heart rate, health and other penguin parameters.
So international scientists and filmmakers, led by Yvon Le Maho of the University of Strasbourg in France, created a remote control rover disguised as a chick to snuggle up to shy penguins in Adelie Land, Antarctica – the same place where the 2005 documentary “March of the Penguins” was filmed.
Researchers watched from more than 650 feet away.
The penguins didn’t scamper away and even sang to it with “a very special song like a trumpet,” Le Maho said.
Le Maho suggested that the adult penguins were trying to find a mate for their chicks and they were listening for a response, but researchers didn’t program the rover to make a sound.
“They were very disappointed when there was no answer,” Le Maho said. “Next time we will have a rover playing songs.”
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