With their distinctive black coats and ungainly waddling, penguins appear out of place on land. However, once you see their beauty in the water, you'll realize they belong there–they're well-adapted to marine ecosystems. These charming Southern Hemisphere native species are as fascinating as they are adorable. A group of penguins in the water is called a raft. Surprisingly, there's a lot to discover about these flightless birds. So, here are some amazing facts about penguins.
Scientists are still unsure of the exact number of species, but the Little Blue Penguin is the smallest: Scientists commonly estimate 17 to 20 penguin species, but there's still some controversy about whether similar species of penguins (such rockhoppers) are genuinely different species. The Little Blue Penguin, 13- to 15-inch cuties, sometimes known as little penguins or fairy penguins, would appear teeny-tiny next to 4-foot-tall emperor penguins. They're also only 3 pounds.
Some extinct penguins reached heights of more than 5 feet: An ancient race of penguins once stood taller than the typical adult man today, according to newly revealed fossils. Kumimanu biceae weighed around 220 pounds at its prime 60 million years ago. Another ancient genus, Pachydyptes (shown), presumably grew to be about 4 feet tall.
Penguins leap into the air before diving to accelerate their swimming: According to Smithsonian, the action releases air bubbles from their feathers, reducing drag and doubling or tripling their speed underwater. Some smaller penguins can leap 6 or 9 feet into the air by rapidly swimming to the surface and exploding up over the ice shelf to return to shore.
Penguins can swim at speeds of up to ten miles per hour and dive to depths of up to 800 feet: The fastest penguins, Gentoos, can reach speeds of up to 20 mph, although most species travel at a slower pace of 4 to 7 mph. An emperor penguin achieved 1,850 feet in the deepest dive ever recorded by the Australian Antarctic Division. Those enormous depths necessitate a large lung capacity; the longest dives known have lasted 22 minutes.
The suits of penguins serve as camouflage: When viewed from above, their black backs mix in with the ocean water, but their white bellies blend in with the brilliant surface when viewed from below. This helps them catch prey including fish, squid, crabs, and krill while hiding from predators like leopard seals. Penguins are carnivores, thus they eat fish, squid, crabs, krill, and other seafood while swimming. An energetic, medium-sized penguin will eat roughly 2 pounds of food per day in the summer, but only a third of that in the winter.
Penguins can drink seawater: When penguins eat a lot of seafood, they're going to drink a lot of saltwater, but penguins have a way to get rid of it. The supraorbital gland removes salt from their bloodstream, which is ultimately expelled via the bill—or by sneezing! Penguins don't drink seawater to stay hydrated; instead, they drink meltwater from pools and streams and consume snow to stay hydrated.
Penguins have no teeth and their bodies are completely waterproof: Penguins are toothless. Inside their mouths, they have fleshy spines that aid in the swallowing of fish. The protrusions are angled backward to assist with the passage of the catch down their throats. They're also water-resistant. Penguins coat themselves in oil produced by their preen gland, which insulates them and improves their hydrodynamics.
They go through a "catastrophic molt" once a year: Unlike most birds, who molt (lose and regrow feathers) a few at a time over the year, penguins lose all of their feathers at once. They can't swim or fish without their feathers, so they bulk up in preparation for the 2–3 weeks it takes to replace them.
Some penguin species have lifemate, and Pudgy penguins make good mates: Gentoos, rockhoppers, and chinstraps remain monogamous in particular. Each season, Adelie females can even find their old mates within minutes of arriving at the colony. Pudgy penguins make excellent companions. Because of the extreme fasting required, females frequently seek out chubbier males who can go weeks without eating while the ladies take turns fishing.
Couples use different calls to find each other: The distinct calls assist them in reuniting in the breeding grounds, which is a difficult feat given there are thousands of identical birds in the area.
Emperor penguins use their feet to nurture eggs: Under a loose fold of skin, the male penguins keep them warm. They don't leave the nest for months until the eggs hatch, not even to eat!
Penguins are total social butterflies and even scientists find penguins using poop: Hundreds of thousands of penguins live in the world's largest penguin colonies, known as rookeries or waddles when collected on land. Large colonies create a lot of dark excrement (called guano), which allows researchers to observe them from space! In 2018, the stinky giveaway revealed a 1.5 million Adelie penguin "super-colony" in the Danger Islands.
Penguins have acquired special sinking adaptations: According to BBC Wildlife Magazine, whereas most birds have hollow bones to aid flight, penguins have solid skeletons to aid diving.
Some penguins build pebble nests and Others dig out comfy burrows: The "nests" of Gentoo penguins are so shabby that ornithologists refer to them as scrapes. The parents do, however, cover the rocks with soft moss and feathers. Little penguins dig tunnels in the sand dunes, usually leading to a "nest bowl" that is just big enough to stand in. Males and females alternate incubating and feeding the eggs until the chicks are about 8 or 9 weeks old.
Penguins are named after a Canadian bird and Macaroni penguins were named for their fashion sense: The scientific name Pinguinus impennis was inspired by the now-extinct enormous auk, which resembled the amusing black-and-white creatures discovered by explorers in the Southern Hemisphere. Macaroni penguins got their title from their sense of style. In 18th-century England, macaroni was a very fashionable gentleman. The spiky yellow crests on these little fellas certainly qualify.
Penguins do not all live in the Antarctic, and they snuggle together for warmth: Living near the equator, the Galápagos penguin remains nice and warm. They are the only penguin species that can be found outside of the Southern Hemisphere. Emperor penguins have refined their group embraces to the point where some of the birds in the midst grow too hot in negative-degree conditions and have to waddle away. Then it's the time of the guys on the outskirts to take a turn absorbing the heat.
Penguin chicks begin their lives as tiny fluffballs and They love "tobogganing": A soft down coat covers their first coat of feathers. The waterproof covering will grow in later, but in the meantime, they look adorable. Rather than shuffle on the ice, many penguins prefer to lie down on their stomachs and drive themselves forward with their feet.
Penguins are super friendly with people: Penguins' principal predators (seals, sea lions, whales, and sharks) all live in the water, so they feel considerably safer on land, for better or worse, near researchers and visitors.
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Source- GH (Good Housekeeping Home)