Tag can detect an array of different actions by animals in minute detail such as a ‘double take’ when a penguin sees a squid or how an unhappy elephant walks
Ian Johnston at the British Science Festival, Swansea
Thursday 8 September 2016
Scientists attached GPS trackers to a group of 16 albatrosses in the Indian Ocean. They recorded the birds flying at speeds of up to 67mph using a ‘dynamic soaring’ technique, which enables them to fly thousands of miles depending on the wind David Osborn/Alamy
Albatrosses fish for squid by spending hours paddling around in circles to stir up bioluminescent organisms on the surface of the sea, a revolutionary new tag that even can sense animals’ emotions has discovered.
About 100 different species – from penguins to cheetahs to humans – have been tagged with the device, which monitors a number of factors such as speed, orientation, temperature, light and pressure.
It is so sensitive that the inventors describe the information it can produce as a “daily diary” of an animal’s life.
For example, it can detect when a penguin sitting down on its nest gets up, takes a few steps in its trademark waddle, shakes itself, dives into the water, where it swims and even the moment it catches a squid.
This can be used to work out whether a particular penguin population is struggling to find enough food to cover the energy expended when fishing.
The tags, which cost about £400, have also been able to detect a different walking style used by elephants when they are happy or sad.
It gives such a detailed picture of the way animals behave it could even be used to predict what they are likely to do next.