11 curious and little known facts about penguins

Penguins are one of the most charismatic birds in the world, famous for their graceful and somewhat goofy appearance. You have probably heard and seen a lot about them, but surely you do not know these curious facts that reflect the complexity that hides behind appearances.

1. There are at least 17 species of penguins

Scientists estimate that there are between 17 and 19 species of penguins. They are found in many regions of the southern hemisphere, from Africa to Australia.

Crested penguins live in the sub-Antarctic region and the Antarctic Peninsula. The temperate and less feathery Magellanic and Humboldt species are native to South America. Only one species lives in the northern hemisphere: the Galapagos penguins, which range just above the equator.

2. They come in all sizes

Growing only to a height of 20 to 30 centimeters, blue penguins are also known as little penguins. They are native to Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.

The emperor is the largest penguin. It lives in Antarctica, and is characterized by its height: it can exceed one meter in height.

3. There was once a mega penguin

In 2014, scientists discovered the 37-million-year-old remains of a species of “mega” penguin, or “colossus” penguin, on Seymour Island on the Antarctic Peninsula. The researchers estimate that it would have measured 1.9 meters in height and would have weighed more than 133 kilos.

4. They are masters of camouflage

Its appearance hides a very interesting ability to go unnoticed just above its predators. The black and white coloring of penguins protects them from leopard seals and sharks because, from below, their white underparts are hard to distinguish from the glitter of the ocean surface. Thus, they hide in broad daylight.

5. tend to be monogamous

Most penguin species are. During mating season, a male penguin mates with a female, and it is they who compete for a mate.

6. There are same-sex couples of penguins

Along with bears and flamingos, penguins are among the 1,500 animal species that form relationships between members of the same genus. There are recorded cases of male pairs incubating eggs and raising little penguins abandoned by their biological parents.

7. Emperor penguins don’t eat for two months.

While the females go on two-month hunting trips and return with food for the baby, the males protect and warm the eggs. To do this, they shelter them in a skin bag with feathers called a breeding bag.

The male emperors do not eat anything until the females return to regurgitate food to their chicks. Afterwards, they are free to leave their young and can head out to sea to find something to eat.

8. They can swim at a speed of up to 35 kilometers per hour

Penguins are birds notable for their inability to fly, but some species can swim quite fast. The Gentoo species, in particular, can swim at speeds of up to 35 kilometers per hour. An average human swimmer swims at just under 4 kilometers per hour.

9. The oldest penguin in the world is 40 years old

In Birdland, a wildlife park in England, lives Missy, the oldest penguin in the world. She is estimated to be 40 years old. The life expectancy of her in the wild is around 26 years.

10. Emperor penguins huddle together to keep warm.

Emperor penguins huddle together to survive the cold arctic winters. To make sure the birds in the middle of the group don’t overheat, they move in a subtle, coordinated rotation every 30 to 60 seconds.

And like all penguin species, emperors have arteries in their feet that adjust blood flow in response to the temperature of their feet.

11. Penguins in warmer climates have ways to cool down.

Penguins that reside in warmer climates, such as the Galapagos and African penguins, have various methods of coping with high temperatures. Both species keep cool by panting, and also rely on genetic adaptations to combat the heat.

Galapagos penguins are the penguin species with the most exposed skin, avoiding suffocation. Also, to replenish sun-damaged feathers, they molt twice a year.

African penguins, meanwhile, have a pink patch around their eyes. There they have a gland that helps them regulate body temperature.

What other animals would you like to know better?


Business Insider