The Bottom Line: Fun facts about penguins!
The Full Story:
- Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60-million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.
- All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.
- The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")
- They always look sharp, but did you know that their coloring is actually camouflage? From above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.
- Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly four-feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16-inches in stature.
- The fastest penguin species is the Gentoo, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22-miles per hour.
- You may not see them, but penguins DO have ears – and in fact, have excellent hearing. They rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.
- As you might’ve guessed, penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish. Something humans couldn’t imagine. But a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins end up excreting it through their beaks, or by sneezing.
- They’re monogamous! While it varies by species, many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season. They’re equally true to their nesting spot.
- Male AND female penguin parents care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt on their own.