Robot spies on shy penguins
The newest tool for biologists is the baby penguin robotic spy.
It's pretty darn cute. And it is convincing. 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. Their heart rate speeds up. That's not what the scientists need. They want to check heart rate, health and other penguin parameters.
So international scientists and even filmmakers created a remote control rover. It's disguised as a chick. The rover will snuggle up to shy penguins in Adelie Land, Antarctica. That is where the 2005 documentary "March of the Penguins" was filmed.
Researchers watched from more than 650 feet away.
The first disguised version of the rover, made of fiberglass, scared the real birds.
Researchers tried about five versions. Then l they hit upon the right one. It's covered in gray fur. It sports black arms, and has a black-and-white painted face and black beak.
The penguins didn't scamper away. They even sang to it. It sounded like a trumpet. The adult penguins might have been listening for a response. But researchers didn't program the rover to make a sound.
There's a reason scientists want to use rovers. Some researchers worry that just by coming close to some shy animals they change their behavior. That can change the results of their studies.