(Photos: Frederique Olivier, John Downer Productions, Le Maho et al., Nature Methods)
Yvon Le Maho of the University of Strasbourg in France and his colleagues wanted to study the heart rates of emperor penguins. They equipped monitors on 34 penguins for that purpose. To collect data, they needed to enter the penguin colony daily. A human presence would cause the penguins to become anxious and would likely skew the data.
So Le Maho and his colleagues built this rover that looks like a penguin chick. They sent it into the colony many times to approach the tagged penguins, gather data, then leave. This rover did not disturb the penguins. Greg Miller writes for Wired:
In another experiment, the researchers disguised the rover as a penguin chick and sent it into a colony of notoriously shy emperor penguins. The birds allowed it to approach (see above) and in one case even infiltrate a creche of chicks (see below). Finally, they tried the undisguised rover on southern elephant seals, massive animals that can weigh more than 7,000 pounds. The seals hardly seemed to notice.
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