Penguin Poo Is A Time Machine

“Gentoo penguin excreting guano onto the snow near in Potter Cove, King George Island. “Photo credit Stephen Roberts WIRED UK

“Ice cores, sediment samples, and tree rings are commonly consulted for the history of the planet’s climate,” you all know that.

Buuuuut (literally butt) do you know what is also a time machine?

Penguin poo! Studying what comes out of the business ends of penguins is a thing.

“Adélie Penguins getting mucky. Penguins produce the most poop of any seabird order,” according to @atlasobscura. Photo credit Liam Quinn.

In a serious example of the the times we live in (scrambling to better understand climate change), “scientists are digging up Adélie penguin guano to study millennia of Antarctica’s history.”

There is A Tale of Cataclysm Written in Penguin Guano. It’s like excavating Pompeii.

The historical poop keeps a kind of layer cake (sorry) record of what the penguins ate and how their diet has changed over time. “Penguin guano ranges from white to pink to dark red. White guano is from eating mostly fish; pink and red would be from eating mostly krill.” Now that you know, hope for this question at trivia night.

Because Adelie pengins are an indicator species, “a species that can provide an early-warning of threats to Antarctica’s delicate ecosystem,” their poop is being scooped from land and studied from SPACE.

According to NASA, “Landsat imagery has since uncovered several previously unknown massive penguin populations…The satellite images can’t see the penguins individually, but it can detect their presence by the stain left on the ice by their excrement.”

We are known by what we leave behind. For Adelie penguins it is guano streaks, red and white, left on the landscape. For us, might it be chicken bones?