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Study challenges band safety for penguins

STRASBOURG, France, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Tagging wild penguins with flipper bands harms their long-term survival and reproduction, a study by the University of Strasbourg in France reported.

University scientist Yvon Le Maho and his colleagues studied 50 flipper-banded and 50 non-banded free-roaming king penguins for 10 years, the research team said in Wednesday's edition of Nature science journal.

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During the study period, flipper-banded penguins produced 39 percent fewer chicks and had a 16 percent lower survival, compared with the non-banded birds. The penguins studied were on a French island in the Indian Ocean between Africa and Antarctica.

Some studies said they found flipper bands -- used for identification purposes -- harmless, but others warned that their use could cause physical damage and drag. Maho said the long-term study refutes the assumption that penguins adapt to the bands, suggesting flipper-banded and non-banded penguins respond differently to climate, with banded birds arriving later on the island to breed.

Researchers said studies of the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems based on flipper-banded penguin data should be reconsidered because the data may be faulty.

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