Friday, November 8, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #87: Penguin Edition

I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

I decided to do penguins this week because octopuses went over well last week, and penguins are also animals. Sea creatures, even, you could say. I’m sure you’re following my logic here.

Also, in the course of my research for an article this week I came across this picture of the Second Coming of the Penguin Jesus, and I had to use it:


Image by Marc Heiden from

I’m sure you’re all aware that penguins live most in Antarctica, not at the Arctic, because you’re all so smart (and talented and attractive). The northernmost species of penguin is the Galapagos penguin, which may venture onto the north side of the equator when feeding.

Image by derekkeats

It can survive in the tropic climate of the equator thanks to the cool waters of the Humboldt and Cromwell currents, and also of course thanks to the grace of the Penguin Jesus.


Penguins are the fastest swimmers of any bird species, and can dive deeper than any other birds. They’ll emerge from the water to leap into the air while swimming, a process that coats their feathers with miniscule bubbles. These bubbles cut friction, allowing them to swim as fast as 20 mph (32 kph). The leaps also allow them to escape from predators.

The penguin’s distinct coloration camouflages them in the water. If you happened to see a swimming penguin from above, you’d see that its dark back blends in with the dark water, and from below, its white belly is hard to detect against the sunlight.

Unlike other bird species, penguins molt all of their feathers at once, in what’s known as a “catastrophic molt.” The process takes two to three weeks and the penguin must fatten itself up beforehand to survive, because they can’t swim or hunt without all of their feathers. The molting penguin will lose about half its total body weight in the process.

And will look awful.

Image by David Monniaux

Most penguin species live in such large, tightly compacted colonies that scientists can spot where penguin colonies from space by the swaths of penguin-shit-stained ice.  

Some penguin species are dwindling – such as the yellow-eyed penguin of New Zealand, of which there are only 4,000 remaining; the erect-crested penguin of New Zealand, which has experienced population declines of 70 percent over the past two decades; and the aforementioned Galapagos penguin, which has experienced population declines of 50 percent since 1970. A few species are thriving, however; the Macaroni penguin boasts a population of more than 11.6 million breeding pairs, and Adelie penguin populations are growing as polar ice cap melt has freed up more of the rocky land on which these creatures thrive. In general, penguins that live closest to the South Pole are surviving in the largest numbers, which penguins that live closer to the equator are more vulnerable to climate change.

Emperor penguins are the fifth heaviest bird species and the largest penguins; they can reach a height of four feet (1.2 m) and weigh 100 pounds (45.3 kg). The second largest penguin, the King Penguin, is almost three feet (0.9 m) tall and 35 pounds (15.9 kg). Ancient penguins, which emerged about four or five million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, were almost human-sized.

When hot, a penguin will pant like a dog, spread its wings and fluff out its feathers to cool down.

Baby penguins are not waterproof.