Our objectives are to identify the molecular basis by which Ad���lie penguins have responded to a -10���C increase in temperature since the last glacial maximum. We will sequence the genomes of a number of ancient Ad���lie penguins from the late Pleistocene. The hypothesis is that a series of molecular based physiological changes have enabled modern Ad���lie penguins to cope with warmer ... temperatures, in comparison to individuals that lived 18,000+ years ago. From the ancient genome data and using the modern genome as a reference, we can identify changes likely to represent the molecular basis of adaptation to climate change.
The field activity involved a survey, on foot, of two areas on Ross Island (Cape Bird to McDonald?s Beach and Cape Royds to Cape Barnes). The purpose of these surveys was to locate and map abandoned Ad���lie penguin nesting sites and relict colonies along these stretches of the Ross Island coastline. At selected locations pits were excavated to collect Ad���lie Penguin remains (bones, eggshells, guano and ornithogenic soils). Using techniques common in archaeological research, an accurate stratigraphic excavation was undertaken to identify the periods of occupations, and to reconstruct the history of penguin populations at each location. Pits from 0.5 to 1 m2 were excavated. Along the Cape Bird to McDonalds Beach coastline 105 samples of Ad���lie penguin material were collected from 9 pits. Along the coastline between Cape Royds and Cape Barne 149 samples of Ad���lie penguin material were dug from 26 pits.
After collection, sub-fossil bone samples were placed in plastic bags, labeled and stored frozen, until returned to the laboratory where they are kept at -80���C. These samples will now be carbon dated, analysed for stable isotopes and stored for genetic analysis.
Two aerial surveys of the coastline in the region from Knob Point to Harrison?s Bluff were conducted to provide data on the location of potential relict and / or abandoned Ad���lie penguin colonies.
Ad���lie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) in Antarctica represent an ideal model to document the changes that occur in distribution, genetics and diet during a period of major climate change. The 2012/13 field season involved a ground survey of three areas Spike Cape, Cape Crozier and Marble Point / Gneiss point. In addition an aerial survey was conducted of the coastline in the Royal Society Ranges region, Erebus Bay and the Southern region of the Cape Crozier ASPA. These surveys we aimed at finding and mapping abandoned Ad���lie penguin nesting sites and relict colonies. At selected locations Ad���lie penguin remains were collected (bones, eggshells, guano and ornithogenic soils) by stratigraphic excavation. These remains will be genetically and isotopically analysed following radiocarbon dating.