Penguin problems

Scientists say these penguins are actually 4 different species

See if you can tell the difference between these 4 species of penguin.

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The world just gained 3 more penguin species.

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According to a new paper in Evolution and Ecology, what was thought as a single species — Gentoo penguins — should actually be classified as four species.

These four populations live on the South Shetland islands in Antarctica, The Falkland Islands and South Georgia in the southern Atlantic Ocean, and the Kerguelen Islands in the Indian Ocean.Gemma Clucas

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The team looked at the genomes of different Gentoo populations, and compared their physical characteristics.

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They found that the four populations are genetically distinct enough to be deemed separate species.

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These penguins could easily swim the distances that separate them, but the researchers say that their geographical separation stops them interbreeding.

One of the species lives in Antarctica and while the other three live in more northern, milder climates. So it makes sense that they have adapted to different habitats, the researchers say.

Gemma Clucas

Understanding the biological differences between the 4 populations can help with conservation efforts, the researchers say.

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If there’s a decline in one of the populations, it could get an official "threatened" status.

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But before the new species designations are accepted, the team’s work must be reviewed by an international panel of experts.

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