The results of several years of studies concerning the role of penguin rookeries in the functioning of the land ecosystems in the maritime Antarctic are summarized. The origins of phosphatic ornithogenic soil in the areas of currently active penguin rookeries arc presented. In the maritime Antarctic occurs relatively fast microbiological decomposition and mineralization of large amounts of excrements carried into coastal area by penguins during breeding period. Chemically aggressive water solutions of guano react with underlaying rocks. This process brings about the occurrence of wide zones of phosphatization. These processes cause the appearance of the series of phosphate minerals whose composition and properties depend on the changing physical and chemical conditions of the soil environment. It has been discovered that in the rookeries for various reasons abandoned by penguins phosphates are still present in large amounts and, gradually changed and washed out, have been for hundreds, or even thousands years a source of nutrients for plants growing in poor Antarctic land ecosystems. These soils came to be called the relic ornithogenic soils of the maritime Antarctic. The stages of plant colonization in the abandoned penguin rookeries were traced. The differences in the fate of the organic matter carried out from the sea to the coastal area by sea-birds in various climatic zones were discussed.
The period of nesting development of Wilson's storm petrels (approx. 60 days) could be divided into three stages: first from hatching to 8th—10th day of development; second, from 10th to approx. 25th day and third from 25th day until nestlings leave the nests. During the first stage hemoglobin concentration in the blood decreases significantly while total surface of erythrocytes and the hematocrit increases. At that time nestlings do not grow very fast. In the second stage of development the values of all studied parameters do not change, while the growth of body weight is very intensive. The last stage is characterized by significantly reduced growth rate accompanied by important changes of all hematological parameters responsible for the respiratory function of blood volume unit.
The red blood picture was studied in 7 species of the Antarctic birds from the regions around Arctowski Station. King George Island (South Shetland Islands). The values of hematological indices were analysed, dependent on the mode of life and body weight of the examined species.
Changes in the red blood picture were studied during the development of Pygoscelis adeliae, P. antarctica and P. papua. It has been found that the respiratory function of a unit of the blood volume increases with the age of the investigated birds. The mechanism of this changes is described.
Throughout 1978 regular counts of pinniped mammals were conducted along as 12-kilometre-long stretch of the Admiralty Bay coasts. The occurrence of all the six species of antarctic seals was noted, among them the most numerous were Mirounga leonina, Arctocephalus tropicalis and Lobodon carcinophagus. The number of these animals varied within a year-cycle. M. leonina and Leptonychotes weddelli breed at Admiralty Bay.
At the turn of October 1985, the abundance of breeding Adelie penguins was estimated at the Hope Bay oasis on the Antarctic Peninsula and on Seymour Island. In the Hope Bay rookery, 123850 pairs of penguins were recorded, beginning their breeding at the end of October. Data so far obtained indicate a continuous increase in the number of birds sat this rookery. On the other hand, the Seymour Island colony consisted of 21954 pairs of Adélie penguins. Clear differences in the geomorphological structure of areas occupied by penguins in those two places are discussed. No gentoo penguins were detected in either of the colonies.
The authors describe the scope of Polish studies in the field of biology and ecology carried on during 20 years of activity of Polish Antarctic Station. Principal results are briefly summarized and ample literature is presented.
Eocene penguin remains from Seymour Island (Antarctica) are so far the oldest−known record of extinct Sphenisciformes. Rich Argentineand Polish collections of penguin bones from the La Meseta Formation are taxonomically revised on tarsometatarsal morphology. Two genera and four species are erected: Mesetaornis polarisgen. et sp. n., Marambiornis exilisgen. et sp. n., Delphinornis arctowskiisp. n. and D. gracilissp. n. Moreover, the diagnoses of already described species: Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi, A. grandis, Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, P. gunnari, Archaeospheniscus wimani and Delphinornis larseniare revised as well. Gradual cooling of climate, changes of environment andtrophic relationships, that lasted several millions years, were most probably responsible forthe intense speciation and taxonomic diversification of the Middle–Late Eocene La Meseta penguins.