A new study reveals scientists' most adorable undercover mission yet.
Researchers created four-wheel rovers to study penguins — and the fluffy rovers resemble baby emperor penguins. Radio tags on animals can only be read within two feet of an antenna, Discovery News reports, so the rovers let researchers study the penguins more closely.
The study, published in the journal Nature Methods, found that the rovers allowed scientists to observe the penguins without interrupting their natural habitat and behaviors. The rovers are "less invasive and stressful for the animals," Discovery News notes. And when the animals are more comfortable, the data collected is more accurate.
The scientists attached microchips to 34 king penguins and monitored the animals' heart rates around the rover. They were also less stressed by the rover than they were by humans. Some adult penguins actually sang to the rover with "a very special song like a trumpet," according to Yvon Le Maho of the University of Strasbourg in France and the lead researcher behind the project. The researchers added that the rover technology could be developed to study aquatic animals as well as other land animals.