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Critters » Penguins


Although most people associate penguins with the frigid Antarctica, in fact only four of seventeen species breed on the Antarctic continent. These include:

  • Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)
  • Chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica)
  • Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)
  • Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua)

    Penguins on the equator?
    While penguins are most numerous in the Antarctic, one species is found as far north as the Galapagos Islands - on the equator!

    Physical Adaptations:
    Penguins are thought to have evolved from flying birds some 50 million years ago. Today, their wings are more like flippers and their stubby tails like a rudder. While penguins do not fly, they are excellent swimmers and often travel at speeds of 5 to 7 mph (8 to 11 kmh). Although they breed on icebergs or land, some species spend as much as 75% of the time in the ocean.

    The penguins' densely-packed feathers have a natural oil-coating that helps to insulate the birds from the water and extreme cold. A layer of body fat helps the penguin store energy and provides additional insulation.

    Females usually lay one to two eggs during the brief Antarctic summer. Penguins breed in large colonies, or rookeries. Nests are simple, usually made from stones and other debris washed in from the ocean. The male and female share responsibility for incubating the eggs and feeding chicks.

    To protect the young from predatory birds and the frigid environment, one parent will stay with the chick for its first three to four weeks. Meanwhile, the second parent will hunt in the ocean for food. The parent regurgitates food from its crop (a pouch-like adaptation of the esophagus) to feed the chick. When the chick is approximately a month old both parents will go hunting, leaving the chick with its peers in a so-called nursery.

    Penguins feed on a variety of fish, squid, and krill.

    On average, how many Penguins does a Polar Bear eat in a week?

  • Green Fact:
    Humpback whales swim the waters of every ocean on the globe, and regularly follow regular migration routes -- spending summers in colder waters for feeding and winters in warmer waters for breeding.
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