New Year in Sydney

The cutest science story of 2014 | Day 128

It’s time to start wrapping up the year – everyone tries to get their round-ups done before Christmas, but I have the added luxury of posting a story every day, no holidays. I don’t know about you, but for me this year flew past way too quickly.

Still, with ten days left until 2015, I’ve decided to celebrate the calendary change with a completely arbitrary wrap-up featuring ten different items – from interesting scientific breakthroughs, to sci-fi, to weird science.

Let’s start by…

The cutest science story of 2014

What could possibly hide underneath the title of a Nature Methods paper “Rovers minimize human disturbance in research on wild animals”?

Baby penguin rover, that’s what.

baby penguin rover
Brooding emperor penguin with its chick approached by a rover camouflaged with a fake chick. | Frederique Olivier/John Downer Productions, Le Maho, et. al., Nature Methods

Researchers needs to be inventive if they want to study wild animals without stressing them out. In one of the experiments for this study researchers tagged king penguins with heart rate monitors and sent a small four-wheeled rover the following day to gather the data. This worked fine, but no scientist would stop there.

In a related experiment they sent the rover to a bunch of emperor penguins – notoriously shy species – but they dressed it up as a penguin chick. Not only did this dress-up trick work remarkably well, it also yielded some of the cutest supplementary material Nature Publishing would have seen all year.

baby penguin rover huddle
Rover camouflaged with an emperor penguin chick model “huddling” with chicks in a crèche.

Just look at that huddling!

2 thoughts on “The cutest science story of 2014 | Day 128”

  1. Pingback: It's Day 366+

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