Penguins are a group of aquatic, flightless birds living almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere, especially in Antarctica. Let’s see some amazing facts and trivia about them!
1.The word penguin first appears in the 16th century as a synonym for great auk.
2. When European explorers discovered what are today known as penguins in the Southern Hemisphere, they noticed their similar appearance to the great auk of the Northern Hemisphere, and named them after this bird, although they are not closely related.
3. The etymology of the word penguin is still debated. The English word is not apparently of French, Breton or Spanis origin (the latter two are attributed to the French word pingouin “auk”), but first appears in English or Dutch.
4. The number of extant penguin species is debated. Depending on which authority is followed, penguin biodiversity varies between 18 and 20 living species, all in the subfamily Spheniscinae.
5. Some sources consider the white-flippered penguin a separate Eudyptula species, while others treat it as a subspecies of the little penguin the actual situation seems to be more complicated.
6. Similarly, it is still unclear whether the royal penguin is merely a color morph of the macaroni penguin. The status of the rockhopper penguins is also unclear
7. The evolutionary history of penguins is well-researched and represents a showcase of evolutionary biogeography; though as penguin bones of any one species vary much in size and few good specimens are known, the alpha taxonomy of many prehistoric forms still leaves much to be desired.
8. The basal penguins lived around the time of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event somewhere in the general area of (southern) New Zealand and Byrd Land, Antarctica. Due to plate tectonics, these areas were at that time less than 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) apart rather than the 4,000 kilometres (2,500 mi) of today.
9. The most recent common ancestor of penguins and their sister clade can be roughly dated to the Campanian–Maastrichtian boundary, around 70–68 mya.
10. Penguin ancestry beyond Waimanu remains unknown and not well-resolved by molecular or morphological analyses. The latter tend to be confounded by the strong adaptive autapomorphies of the Sphenisciformes; a sometimes perceived fairly close relationship between penguins and grebes is almost certainly an error based on both groups’ strong diving adaptations, which are homoplasies. On the other hand, different DNA sequence datasets do not agree in detail with each other either.
11. What seems clear is that penguins belong to a clade of Neoaves (living birds except paleognaths and fowl) that comprises what is sometimes called “higher waterbirds” to distinguish them from the more ancient waterfowl. This group contains such birds as storks, rails, and the seabirds, with the possible exception of the Charadriiformes.
12. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.
13. Generally, penguins are not sexually dimorphic, meaning male and female penguins look alike.
14. Penguins molt, or lose their feathers, once a year. They always molt on land or ice and until they grow new waterproof coats, they are unable to go into the water. Molting may take weeks, and most penguins lose about half their body weight during this time.
15. Penguins are highly social birds. Even at sea, penguins usually swim and feed in groups. Some penguin colonies on Antarctica are huge and can contain 20 million or more penguins at various times during the year.
16. King penguins can form nesting colonies of up to 10,000 penguins. Each penguin keeps its neighbor at an exact but close distance.
17. Penguins can stay underwater for 10-15 minutes before coming to the surface to breathe. Penguins cannot breath underwater.
18. Yellow-eyed Penguins (Megadyptes antipodes), the third-largest penguins, have yellow cat-like eyes. They live along the coastal shores of New Zealand and neighboring islands.
19. All penguins except the Emperor Penguin share incubation duties with their mate. Still, Emperor Penguins manage to get 75% of their young to self-sufficiency.
20. Penguins often slide on their tummies over ice and snow. This is called tobogganing. Researchers believe they do this for fun and as an efficient way to travel.
21. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.
22. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.
23. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.
24. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.
25. Penguins lost their ability to fly millions of year ago. However, they are the fastest-swimming and deepest-diving species of any bird. Penguins are also the most aquatic of all birds.
26. A wild penguin typically lives between 15-20 years, spending approximately 75% of their lives in the water.
27. While some penguins mate for life or until a partner dies, some penguins often mate with new partners while the old ones are still alive and in the same colony. Some researchers have noted that male and female penguins sometimes “cheat” on their partners, even while they are nesting and raising young with another penguin.
28. If a female Emperor Penguin’s baby dies, she will often “kidnap” an unrelated chick—but rather than raise it as her own, she soon abandons the stolen chick.
29. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.
30. Penguins are popular around the world, primarily for their unusually upright, waddling gait and (compared to other birds) lack of fear of humans.
31. Their striking black-and-white plumage is often likened to a white tie suit.
32. Mistakenly, some artists and writers have penguins based at the North Pole. This is incorrect, as there are almost no wild penguins in the Northern Hemisphere, except the small group on the northernmost of the Galápagos. The cartoon series Chilly Willy helped perpetuate this myth, as the title penguin would interact with northern-hemisphere species, such as polar bears and walruses.
33. Penguins have been the subject of many books and films, such as Happy Feet, Surf’s Up and The Penguins of Madagascar, all CGI films; March of the Penguins, a documentary based on the migration process of the emperor penguin; and a parody titled Farce of the Penguins.
34. Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a children’s book written by Richard and Florence Atwater; it was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1939.
35. Penguins have also found their way into a number of cartoons and television dramas; perhaps the most notable of these is Pingu, created by Silvio Mazzola in 1986 and covering more than 100 short episodes.
36. At the end of 2009, Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, “best-of” list, saying, “Whether they were walking (March of the Penguins), dancing (Happy Feet), or hanging ten (Surf’s Up), these oddly adorable birds took flight at the box office all decade long.”
37. A video game called Pengo was released by Sega in 1982. Set in Antarctica, the player controls a penguin character who must navigate mazes of ice-cubes. The player is rewarded with cut-scenes of animated penguins marching, dancing, saluting and playing peekaboo. Several remakes and enhanced editions have followed, most recently in 2012.
38. Penguins featured regularly in the cartoons of UK cartoonist Steve Bell in his strip in The Guardian newspaper, particularly during and following the Falklands War, and the well-known Opus the Penguin, from the cartoons of Berkeley Breathed, is also described as hailing from the Falklands.
39. Opus was a comical, “existentialist” penguin character in the cartoons Bloom County, Outland and Opus. He was also the star in the Christmas show A Wish for Wings That Work.
40. In the mid-2000s, penguins became one of the most publicized species of animals that form lasting homosexual couples. A children’s book, And Tango Makes Three, was written about one such penguin family in the New York Zoo.