A Tasmanian colony of fairy penguins has connected to the internet using a specially designed tablet to send out a puzzling message: "42".
The tablet was designed by a group of citizen scientists who hoped to bring about an "interspecies internet".
Google's chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf and former Genesis lead singer Peter Gabriel promoted the notion of sharing the internet with animals in a TED talk earlier this year.
Software engineering student Adelie King said she developed and installed a flipper-friendly email application on a first-generation iPad, which she then wrapped in plastic to avoid water damage.
Although some of her peers suggested that penguins would be more comfortable on an open source platform, King chose to develop on Apple's iOS "for its user-friendliness".
"If my parents can learn to point and swipe, why can't a young penguin?" she said.
The device, connected to the internet by 3G, was left under camera surveillance near a fairy penguin rookery on Tasmania's east coast.
Curious penguins were observed nudging the device for days, until one animal waddled up, shouldered aside its peers and purposely typed in the number "42".
The Labor Government said the penguins' message was proof of how vital a national fibre network was for Tasmania, Australia and the world.
Tasmania is due to be connected to Labor's National Broadband Network by 2015.
A Labor spokesperson said NBN connectivity would spark new education and telehealth opportunities for penguins, humans and other Australian inhabitants.
"The Coalition's opposition of the NBN will not only impact the 22 million human Australian citizens but also our furry, scaled and feathered friends," the spokesperson said.
A Coalition spokesman said animals would be better served by wireless and satellite broadband instead of fibre, citing the nomadic habits of various species.
Experts have questioned the compatibility of the device with Google's rumoured animal speech recognition platform, also known as "Google for Animals", which is reportedly being beta tested with sheep in New Zealand.
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