Some time ago, researchers in Ushuaia, the southernmost part of Argentina, spotted unexpected birds. Tourists are coming to Martillo Island to see the astonishing colonies of magellanic and gentoo penguins. But if you are lucky enough, you can see the royal penguins looking out into the water from the rocky beach of the island. They are a little bit taller than gentoo penguins and probably twice bigger than magellanic penguins. But for scientists, this species of penguin living in Argentina is a real mystery. Why are they called the loneliest penguins in the world?
Royal Birds in the Middle of Nowhere
Ushuaia, the southernmost place in Argentina, is often called the edge of the world. If you travel about a thousand more kilometers to south from this place, you will reach Antarctica. On the island of Martillo, the magellanic penguins, who differ from others because they dig caves for their nests, have been living here since the 1970s. In the last decade of the 20th century, they were joined by gentoo penguins, which are slightly larger and collect small stones for their nests.
Several royal penguins were captured some time ago via the cameras installed on the island by scientists. Usually, these penguins were spotted while walking in the crossing places of gentoo penguins. Royal penguins can be found in Patagonia, but they were spotted on this island a few years ago for the first time. How they got here, where they came from, and how many of them there are in total, scientists cannot explain.
It is not known whether these royal penguins came to Martillo Island by accident, or whether that was their goal. However, experts say it is very likely that this is just a wonderful coincidence. The most likely version is that royal penguins were travelling traveled across the ocean to look for food when they found this island of other penguins.
Raising a New Colony
The royal penguins of Martillo Island got the nickname of the loneliest penguins in the world, because their colony here is very small. When the royal penguins were first spotted on Martillo Island, it seemed that the penguins are not yet mature because they not even tried to mate. But in recent years, a few eggs have been laid, and last year, for the first time, a cub hatched from one egg. Unfortunately, the cub died a few weeks later due to the hot summer in Ushuaia. The researchers believe that the baby would probably still have died during the winter because the parents seemed inexperienced, and the colony is very small. Usually, the cubs of royal penguins gather in one pile in the winter to keep warm while their parents hunt for food. The royal penguins are trying to start a colony here, but it is very hard with just a few penguins.
It is difficult to say what will happen to the royal penguins of Martillo Island in the future. Researchers do not want to interfere to not disrupt the lives of those few penguins here, as a result they are analyzing only the videos now. However, that is not enough to determine the age of the penguins, whether the same or new individuals are returning to the island.