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Penguins are one of the most popular animals on earth!
Tuxedo colors, adorable waddles and adorable faces make penguins one of the most beloved animals in the world. From the equatorial deserts of Africa to the Nordic steppes of Scandinavia, humans can't help but marvel at aquatic, flightless bipedal birds! Many people mistakenly think that penguins only live in the Arctic and Antarctic, but in fact, they live in the entire southern hemisphere. One species even nests near the equator. However, no one lives in or near the Arctic Circle.
Scientists have been debating the taxonomic and genetic links of penguins, but they all agree that at least 15 species currently inhabit the planet.
Fun and Fascinating Penguin Facts
- In prehistoric times, human-sized penguins waddled across the planet. Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi stands 1.8 meters (5 feet 11 inches) tall and weighs 90 kilograms (200 pounds). The presence of big toothed whales and seals likely contributed to the extinction of giant penguins.
- In 1948, a Florida man named Tony built himself a pair of 30-pound three-toed lead shoes and stomped on the beach at night, further confirming the fact that 15-foot penguins rule the waves at night myth. He did it for ten years, never got caught, and it wasn't until 40 years later that the hoax was exposed.
- The penguin's black and white color scheme is defensive camouflage.
- Although the Falklands are riddled with active mines, the group of islands has been turned into a makeshift nature reserve for penguins because the animals are too light to trigger the mines.
- The oldest known penguin species in the fossil record is Waimanu manneringi , which lived 62 million years ago.
The common scientific name of penguins is Penguinidae . However, the exact etymology of the word "penguin" is still up for debate. The term first appeared in the 1700s as a synonym for the puffin, a now-extinct seabird that resembled but was not related to penguins in body color. Some believe this made-up synonym is derived from the French word "pingouin," which sailors used for the puffin.
The Oxford English Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary and Merriam-Webster attribute the word to Welsh. They hypothesize that penguins are a mix of "pen" (Welsh for "head") and "gwyn" (Welsh for "white"), since the great auk first appeared on Whitehead Island in Newfoundland.
Other linguists believe penguin has a Latin root, linking it to the word "pinguis," which means "fat" or "oil." They attribute this theory to the Germanic word for penguin, "fettgans," which translates to "fat goose," and the Dutch word for animal, "vetgans," which also roughly translates to "fat goose."
Scientists believe penguins evolved from flying birds and are related to petrels such as petrels, albatrosses, loons and frigatebirds. As penguins adapt to their aquatic habitat and develop the ability to dive and swim, they lose their ability to fly. Waimanu manneringi from New Zealand is the earliest known species of penguin, existing during the Cretaceous period 60-65 million years ago.
Some researchers speculate that penguins are related to members of the penguin family because they resemble other seabirds such as puffins, cormorants and shavers. But this is seen more as convergent evolution, where groups of species evolve independently but similarly.
types of penguins
|Aptenodytes (Great Penguins)||Patagonian fish||A. p. Patagonicus / A. p. Harry||king penguin|
|Aptenodytes (Great Penguins)||groin worm||not any||Emperor penguins|
|Pygoscelis (Brushtail Penguin)||Cercoides||not any||adelie penguin|
|Pygoscelis (Brushtail Penguin)||Antarctic fishtail||not any||Chinstrap Penguin, Ringed Penguin, Bearded Penguin, Stonecrack Penguin|
|Pygoscelis (Brushtail Penguin)||Pygoscelis Papua||not any||gentoo penguin|
|Eudyptula (Little Penguin)||Eucalyptus|| E-mail variability / E. m. algae
Little penguin taxonomy remains very fluid and controversial.
|Little blue penguin, Little penguin, fairy penguin, Maori name: Kororā|
|Eudyptula (Little Penguin)||new turtle||Little penguin taxonomy remains very fluid and controversial.||australian little penguin|
|Eudyptula (Little Penguin)||Eucalyptus alba||Little penguin taxonomy remains very fluid and controversial.||white fin penguin|
|Spheniscus (banded penguin)||Magellan Ivory Fish||not any||Magellanic penguin|
|Spheniscus (banded penguin)||Humboldt buckthorn||not any||humboldt penguin|
|Spheniscus (banded penguin)||Long-tailed cockroach||not any||galapagos penguins|
|Spheniscus (banded penguin)||deep fish barracuda||not any||African Penguins, Cape Penguins, South African Penguins|
|megafauna||monitor lizard||not any||Yellow-eyed Penguin, Hoiho, Tarakaka|
|Eudyptes (crested penguin)||pachynose gator||not any||Fiordland Penguin, Fiordland Crested Penguin, New Zealand Crested Penguin, Maori name: Tawaki or Pokotiwha|
|Eudyptes (crested penguin)||thick spiny lizard||not any||trap penguin|
|Eudyptes (crested penguin)||Eudyptes sclateri||not any||erect crested penguin|
|Eudyptes (crested penguin)||Eudyptes chrysocome|| coli chrysocome /
E. coli filholi – Oriental
|southern rockhopper penguin|
|Eudyptes (crested penguin)||long-tailed eucalyptus||The eastern rockhopper is considered by some scientists to be a subspecies of the southern rockhopper, while others consider it its own species.||Eastern rockhopper penguin|
|Eudyptes (crested penguin)||Moseley turtle||not any||northern rockhopper penguin|
|Eudyptes (crested penguin)||Eudyptes schlegeli (controversial)||Some scientists consider the Eudyptes schlegeli penguin to be a subspecies of the macaroni penguin. Others disagree.||royal penguin|
|Eudyptes (crested penguin)||golden retriever||Some scientists consider the Eudyptes schlegeli penguin to be a subspecies of the macaroni penguin. Others disagree.||Macaroni Penguin|
appearance and behavior
Penguins are animals with an iconic appearance: a black back and white front. The technical term for their shading is "counter-shading". This is an evolutionary advantage that serves as spectacular camouflage, as penguin predators have difficulty distinguishing white underbelly from reflective water surfaces. On land, black backs help penguins blend into the rocky terrain where many species nest and breed.
They may look sleek and tough, but penguins are covered in feathers, and their feathers serve two main purposes. First, it helps improve buoyancy and improves their agile swimming skills. Second, penguin feathers act as insulation, allowing the birds to withstand cold water and air temperatures.
Several penguin species have unique aesthetic appeal. Rockhoppers have fancy crowns and feathers on their heads. Chinstrap penguins have a white band around their chin area, while giant penguins have golden feathers adorning their necks and heads. Cape penguins have distinctive pink patches above their eyes, while little blue penguins have blue rather than jet-black plumage.
Every once in a while, penguins are born with light brown plumage instead of black. Known as Isabella penguins, they tend to have a short lifespan due to poor camouflage – but they're beautiful!
Average size of penguin species
|Patagonian fish||70 to 100 cm (28 to 39 inches)||9.3 to 18 kg (21 to 40 lbs)|
|groin worm||122 cm (48 in)||22 to 45 kg (49 to 99 lbs)|
|Cercoides||46 to 71 cm (18 to 28 inches)||3.6 to 6.0 kg (7.9 to 13.2 lbs)|
|Antarctic fishtail||68 to 76 cm (27 to 30 inches)||3.2 to 5.3 kg (7.1 to 11.7 lbs)|
|Pygoscelis Papua||51 to 90 cm (20 to 35 inches)||4.9 to 8.5 kg (11 to 19 lbs)|
|Eucalyptus||30 to 33 cm (12 to 13 inches)||1.5 kg (3.3 lbs)|
|new turtle||30 to 33 cm (12 to 13 inches)||1.5 kg (3.3 lbs)|
|Eucalyptus alba||30 cm (12 in)||1.5 kg (3.3 lbs)|
|Magellan Ivory Fish||61 to 76 cm (24 to 30 inches)||2.7 to 6.5 kg (6.0 to 14.3 lbs)|
|Humboldt buckthorn||56 to 70 cm (22 to 28 inches)||3.6 to 5.9 kg (8 to 13 lbs)|
|Long-tailed cockroach||49 cm (19 in)||2.5 kg (5.5 lbs)|
|deep fish barracuda||60 to 70 cm (24 to 28 inches)||2.2 to 3.5 kg (4.9 to 7.7 lbs)|
|monitor lizard||62 to 79 cm (24 to 31 inches)||3 to 8.5 kg (6.6 to 18.7 lbs)|
|pachynose gator||60 cm (24 in)||3.7 kg (8.2 lbs)|
|thick spiny lizard||50 to 70 cm (19.5 to 27.5 inches)||2.5 to 4 kg (5.5 to 8.8 lbs)|
|Eudyptes sclateri||50 to 70 cm (20 to 28 inches)||2.5 to 6 kg (5.5 to 13.2 lbs)|
|Eudyptes chrysocome||5 to 58 cm (18 to 23 inches)||2 to 4.5 kg (4.4 to 9.9 lbs)|
|long-tailed eucalyptus||45 to 55 cm (17.7 to 21.6 inches)||2.2 to 4.3 kg (4.9 to 9.4 lbs)|
|Chiton||65 to 76 cm (26 to 30 inches)||3 to 8 kg (6.6 to 17.6 lbs)|
|golden retriever||70 cm (28 in)||5.5 kg (12 lbs)|
When standing upright on land, penguins use their tails and wings for balance. If time is tight, penguins will slide on their stomachs, using their feet to propel and steer. The technique is called "tobogganing". Penguins are also skilled jumpers, and do so when traversing prickly terrain.
Penguins are very social animals and they gather in small groups called colonies. As such, they develop vocal and visual communication skills and standards. Adult male penguins are "roosters" and females are "hens". A group of penguins on land is called a "waddle"; a group in water is a "raft".
Wild penguins live almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere, with the exception of banded penguins, which live near the equator and sometimes migrate to the northern hemisphere. There are large populations in Angola, Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Falkland Islands. In addition, penguins in captivity live in zoos and animal sanctuaries around the world.
The table below details specific habitat areas for different penguin species.
Major distributions of penguin species around the world
|Patagonian fish||king penguin||islands in the south atlantic and south indian oceans|
|groin worm||Emperor penguins||Islands in Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Regions|
|Cercoides||adelie penguin||Antarctica, Southern Ocean|
|Antarctic fishtail||chinstrap penguin||Islands in the South Pacific and Antarctic Seas|
|Pygoscelis Papua||gentoo penguin||Islands of the Antarctic Region, Falkland Islands, South Georgia|
|Eucalyptus||little blue penguin||New Zealand, Chile, South Africa|
|new turtle||australian little penguin||Australia|
|Eucalyptus alba||white fin penguin||Banks Peninsula, Motunau Island|
|Magellan Ivory Fish||Magellanic penguins||Argentina, Chile, Falkland Islands|
|Humboldt buckthorn||humboldt penguin||Pinguino de Humboldt National Reserve, Chile, Northern Peru|
|Long-tailed cockroach||galapagos penguins||Colon Islands|
|deep fish barracuda||cape penguin||south west africa coast|
|monitor lizard||yellow eyed penguin||new zealand coast and islands|
|pachynose gator||fjord penguins||Southwest coast of New Zealand and surrounding islands|
|thick spiny lizard||trap penguin||Trap Islands|
|Eudyptes sclateri||erect crested penguin||Bounty and Antipodes|
|Eudyptes chrysocome||southern rockhopper penguin||Subantarctic in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans|
|long-tailed eucalyptus||Eastern rockhopper penguin||Prince Edward Island, Crozet, Kerguelen, Heard, Macquarie, Campbell, Auckland and the Antipodes Islands|
|Moseley turtle||northern rockhopper penguin||Tristan da Cunha, Inaccessible Island, Gough Island|
|Eudyptes schlegeli (controversial)||royal penguin||Subantarctic Islands, Macquarie Island|
|golden retriever||Macaroni Penguin||Subantarctic and islands of the Antarctic Peninsula|
All penguins are carnivores that feed on marine life. They are Pescatarians! However, specific diets vary by region. The table below details the general menu for each animal.
What do the different species of penguins eat
|Patagonian fish||king penguin||Lantern fish, squid, krill|
|groin worm||Emperor penguins||Fish, Crustaceans, Cephalopods, Antarctic Silverfish, Glacier Squid, Hook Squid, Antarctic Krill|
|Cercoides||adelie penguin||Antarctic krill, ice krill, Antarctic whitebait, sea krill, glacier squid|
|Antarctic fishtail||chinstrap penguin||Small fish, krill, shrimp, squid|
|Pygoscelis Papua||gentoo penguin||Fish, krill, squat lobster, squid|
|Eucalyptus||little blue penguin||clupeoid fish, cephalopod, crustacean, arrow squid, elongated sprat, Graham's gudgeon, red cod, ahuru, barracouta, anchovies, arrow squid|
|new turtle||australian little penguin||Sardines, anchovies, cephalopods, crustaceans|
|Eucalyptus alba||white fin penguin||Little is known about white-tip penguins, including dietary details.|
|Magellan Ivory Fish||Magellanic penguin||Cuttlefish, squid, krill|
|Humboldt buckthorn||humboldt penguin||Krill, small crustaceans, squid, fish|
|Long-tailed cockroach||galapagos penguins||Small fish, mullet, sardines|
|deep fish barracuda||cape penguin||Sardines, anchovies, squid, small crustaceans|
|monitor lizard||yellow eyed penguin||Blue cod, red cod, opalfish, New Zealand blueback sprat, arrow squid|
|pachynose gator||fjord penguins||Arrow squid, krill, red cod, hoki|
|thick spiny lizard||trap penguin||Krill, small fish, cephalopods|
|Eudyptes sclateri||erect crested penguin||Small fish, krill, squid|
|Eudyptes chrysocome||southern rockhopper penguin||Krill, squid, octopus, lanternfish, molluscs, plankton, cuttlefish, crustaceans|
|long-tailed eucalyptus||Eastern rockhopper penguin||Small fish, octopus, squid, and krill-like crustaceans|
|Moseley turtle||northern rockhopper penguin||Krill, Crustaceans, Squid, Octopus, Fish|
|Eudyptes schlegeli (controversial)||royal penguin||krill, fish, squid|
|golden retriever||Macaroni Penguin||Krill, Crustaceans, Cephalopods|
Predators and Threats
Climate change poses a huge threat to several penguin species, and marine conservationists are racing against time to develop solutions. Natural predators of penguins include leopard seals, sharks, killer whales, fur seals and sea lions.
Reproduction, Babies and Longevity
Penguins breed on ice or rocky outcrops. With the exception of yellow-eyed and fjord penguins, all penguins breed in large colonies, ranging from 100 to hundreds of thousands of pairs, such as chinstrap, king and macaroni penguins.
Penguins remain monogamous during the breeding season, but Chinstrap Penguins usually mate for life! Most pairs lay two eggs per clutch. The larger penguins, aka the "great penguins," only have one. Most species produce only one brood each mating season, but little penguins may have several broods.
Their eggs are small relative to the size of an adult penguin. However, the shell is very thick to withstand rough terrain. Interestingly, when Aptenodytes forsteri (emperor penguins) lose an egg or a chick, they try to kidnap the offspring of the other pair. Penguin snatches are rarely successful, but that doesn't stop them from trying!
Aptenodytes forsteri males handle all hatching tasks. Both parents share responsibility for the rest of the species. Incubation shifts can last days or weeks while one of the parents is out foraging.
Little penguins are called "chicks" or "chicks". When they are gathered together, it is called "crèches". Newborn penguins depend on their parents until they develop waterproof feathers. For some species, this may be as little as seven to nine weeks. For other species, it may be as long as 13 months.
Penguin life expectancy depends on the species, but varies from 6 to 26 years.
Average Lifespan of Penguin Species
|Patagonian fish||king penguin||26 years|
|groin worm||Emperor penguins||20 years|
|Cercoides||adelie penguin||20 years|
|Antarctic fishtail||chinstrap penguin||15 to 20 years old|
|Pygoscelis Papua||gentoo penguin||13 years|
|Eucalyptus||little blue penguin||6 years|
|new turtle||australian little penguin||7 years|
|Eucalyptus alba||white fin penguin||15 to 20 years old|
|Magellan Ivory Fish||Magellanic penguin||30 years|
|Humboldt buckthorn||humboldt penguin||15 to 20 years old|
|Long-tailed cockroach||galapagos penguins||15 to 20 years old|
|deep fish barracuda||cape penguin||10 to 27 years old|
|monitor lizard||yellow eyed penguin||23 years|
|pachynose gator||fjord penguins||10 to 20 years|
|thick spiny lizard||trap penguin||11 years|
|Eudyptes sclateri||erect crested penguin||15 to 20 years old|
|Eudyptes chrysocome||southern rockhopper penguin||10 years|
|long-tailed eucalyptus||Eastern rockhopper penguin||10 years|
|Moseley turtle||northern rockhopper penguin||10 years|
|Eudyptes schlegeli (controversial)||royal penguin||15 to 20 years old|
|golden retriever||Macaroni Penguin||8 to 15 years old|
Some penguin species are stable. However, climate change and human encroachment are pushing other species to the brink of extinction. Below is a summary of penguin population estimates and conservation status according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Population estimates and conservation status
|Patagonian fish||king penguin||2.2 to 3.2 million breeding pairs||least concerned (IUCN)|
|groin worm||Emperor penguins||130,000 to 250,000 breeding pairs||Near Threatened (IUCN)|
|Cercoides||adelie penguin||4.5 million breeding pairs||least concerned (IUCN)|
|Antarctic fishtail||chinstrap penguin||7.5 million breeding pairs||least concerned (IUCN)|
|Pygoscelis Papua||gentoo penguin||387,000 breeding pairs||least concerned (IUCN)|
|Eucalyptus||little blue penguin||350,000 to 600,000 individual animals||least concerned (IUCN)|
|new turtle||australian little penguin||350,000 to 600,000 individual animals||least concerned (IUCN)|
|Eucalyptus alba||white fin penguin||3,750 breeding pairs||Threatened (ESA)|
|Magellan Ivory Fish||Magellanic penguins||1.3 million breeding pairs||Near Threatened (IUCN)|
|Humboldt buckthorn||humboldt penguin||32,000 adults||Vulnerable (IUCN)|
|Long-tailed cockroach||galapagos penguins||Fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs||Endangered (IUCN)|
|deep fish barracuda||cape penguin||Fewer than 40,000 adults||Endangered (IUCN)|
|monitor lizard||yellow eyed penguin||4,000 adults||Endangered (IUCN)|
|pachynose gator||fjord penguins||3,000 breeding pairs||Vulnerable (IUCN) / Endangered (DOC)|
|thick spiny lizard||trap penguin||25,000 breeding pairs||Vulnerable (IUCN)|
|Eudyptes sclateri||erect crested penguin||150,000 adults||Endangered (IUCN)|
|Eudyptes chrysocome||southern rockhopper penguin||1.5 million pairs (for all rockhopper penguins)||Vulnerable (IUCN)|
|long-tailed eucalyptus||Eastern rockhopper penguin||1.5 million pairs (for all rockhopper penguins)||Vulnerable (IUCN)|
|Moseley turtle||northern rockhopper penguin||Between 100,000 and 499,999 breeding pairs are found on Goff Island, between 18,000 and 27,000 on Inaxé Island, and between 3,200 and 4,500 on Tristan da Cunha||Endangered (IUCN)|
|Eudyptes schlegeli (controversial)||royal penguin||1.5 million pairs (for all rockhopper penguins)||Near Threatened (IUCN)|
|golden retriever||Macaroni Penguin||18 million people||Vulnerable (IUCN)|
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about the author
Abby Parks is the author of novels, plays, short stories, poems and lyrics. She has recorded two albums of her original songs and is a multi-instrumentalist. She manages a folk music website and writes about singer-songwriters, folk bands, and other music-related articles. She is also a radio DJ for folk music shows. As well as being a pet parent to rabbits, birds, dogs and cats, Abby enjoys hunting for animals in the wild and has witnessed some of the more exotic ones such as Puffins in the Farne Islands, Puffins in Chiloe Southern Pudu (Chile), penguins in the wild, and countless wildlife of the Rocky Mountains (bighorn sheep, goats, moose, elk, marmots, beavers).
Penguin FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
penguin vs puffin
Penguins and puffins are similar in coloration, but there are important differences between the two birds. Penguins are much larger, with emperor penguins weighing up to 100 pounds, and puffins weighing a fraction of that. Due to their smaller size, puffins can fly, while penguins are flightless and have adapted to become excellent swimmers.
Are penguins herbivores, carnivores or omnivores?
Penguins are carnivorous and feed on a variety of seafood including squid, krill, fish and crustaceans.
Why can't penguins fly?
Although penguins have wings, they cannot fly, unlike most other birds. However, their wings still serve a lot of purposes, as they have evolved to help penguins swim! In a way, they just fly underwater.
Why do penguins wobble?
As an observer, seeing penguins wobble might not seem like a very efficient way to move, but it's actually a good use of their short legs and big feet – a way they evolved for swimming . By rocking back and forth and using gravity, penguins are able to move without wasting unnecessary energy.
Are penguins dangerous?
Generally speaking, penguins are not afraid of humans. Nor will they engage in aggressive behavior. However, penguins are usually kept no more than 3 meters (9 feet) from people, and humans should respect their space.
Lala's story is a testament to the penguin's affinity for people. Finding Lala entangled in fishing nets, with her beak and wings broken, Lala finds temporary salvation on a rescue boat. After returning home, the fisherman gave Lala to the nearby animal doctor Nishimoto's family, and they built a cold room for him to restore him to health! Lara became so attached to the family that he didn't want to leave. So, Lala accompanied her family to the fish market every day. Soon, he started his own actions and dutifully returned to his cold palace! In no time, everyone in town is meeting the popular penguin, and Lala starts running errands for the family in a specially designed backpack!
While penguins are docile animals, it is always wise to keep your distance unless a trained keeper is nearby.
What are some interesting facts about penguins?
- It's not uncommon for penguins to form same-sex couples.
- Magellanic penguins have a special salt-scavenging gland that allows them to drink as much seawater as they want without ill effects.
- Macaroni penguins consume more sea animals than any other seabird.
- Penguins spend between 50% and 75% of their time in the water, depending on the species.
- The nephew of French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte was instrumental in outlining penguin taxonomy.
To which kingdom do penguins belong?
Penguins belong to the animal kingdom.
What phylum do penguins belong to?
Penguins belong to the phylum Chordate.
Which category do penguins belong to?
Penguins belong to the class of birds.
What family do penguins belong to?
Penguins belong to the penguin family.
What order do penguins belong to?
Penguins belong to the butterfly order.
What type of mulch do penguins have?
Penguins are covered with feathers.
What type of habitat do penguins live in?
Penguins live in icy oceans and rocky lands.
What is the main prey of penguins?
Penguins prey on fish, crabs and squid.
What are the distinctive features of penguins?
Penguins have short, pointed beaks and slightly webbed feet.
What are the natural enemies of penguins?
Penguin predators include leopard seals, sharks and killer whales.
What is the average clutch size for a Penguin?
Penguins usually lay 1 egg.
What is the scientific name of the penguin?
The scientific name of the penguin is Aptenodytes Forsteri.
What is the lifespan of a penguin?
Penguins can live 20 to 30 years.
What is the wingspan of a penguin?
Penguins have a wingspan of 60 cm to 130 cm.
How do penguins give birth?
Penguins lay eggs.
What's the Difference Between Leopard Seals and Penguins?
Differences between leopard seals and penguins include size, appearance, habitat, diet, lifespan, and interaction with humans.
Thanks for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the 10hunting.com editorial team.
- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animals, The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife
- Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) Encyclopedia of World Animals
- David Burney, Kingfisher (2011) The Animal Encyclopedia of Kingfishers
- Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) Atlas of Threatened Species
- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia
- Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Animal Encyclopedia
- Christopher Perrins, Oxford University Press (2009) Encyclopedia of Birds