Washington, Jun 22: In what could offer new insight into the long-term future of emperor penguins, researchers have discovered that these birds may not be faithful to their previous nesting locations, as previously thought.

Researchers have long thought that emperor penguins were philopatric, which means they would return to the same location to nest each year.  The new research study – that used satellite images – showed that the penguins may be behaving in ways that allow them to adapt to their changing environment better than expected.

The study found six instances in just three years in which emperor penguins did not return to the same location to breed.  They also reported on one newly discovered colony on the Antarctic Peninsula that may represent the relocation of penguins.

“Our research that shows colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviors we thought we understood about emperor penguins,” said Michelle LaRue from University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering in the US. The findings will appear in the forthcoming issue of the journal Ecography.