There are numerous different reasons as to why penguins are such awesome animals. Their entertaining personalities and resilience to extreme weather certainly makes them a favourite among wildlife enthusiasts. However, climate change poses an increasing threat to many of their populations, with severe losses reported across many large colonies. As today is penguin awareness day, it is the perfect time to raise awareness of their plight in the wild and share some of the fascinating things about these amazing and lovable creatures. So here are 10 amazing facts about these wonderful animals.
- There are 18 species of penguin:
- Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)
- Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti)
- Little penguin (Eudyptula minor)
- Macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus)
- Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)
- Chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus)
- King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
- Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua)
- Southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome)
- Northern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi)
- Fiordland penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus)
- Snares Penguin (Eudyptes robustus)
- Erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri)
- Royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli)
- Yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes)
- African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)
- Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus)
- Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus)
2. They range in height from the little penguin, which is around 40cm tall, to the emperor penguin which stands at around 110cm.
3. They can be found all across the Southern hemisphere including Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Galapagos and South Africa.
4. Although penguins are usually associated with cold environments in the far south, Galapagos penguins live in tropical climates around the equator.
5. Out of the 18 species of penguin, 10 are currently threatened with extinction. The Galapagos penguin, the African penguin, the erect-crested penguin, the yellow-eyed penguin and the northern rockhopper penguin are all currently classed as Endangered on the IUCN red list.
6. Although penguins can’t fly, they use their flattened, flipper-like wings to propel themselves through the water to catch fish, squid and krill at speeds of up to 22mph.
7. Most penguins breed in colonies, some of which have estimated to contain up to 2 million individuals. Last year, it was announced that a “supercolony” of more than 1.5 million Adelie penguins had been discovered on the Danger Islands after large patches of their poo, known as guano, was seen from space.
8. Most penguins build nests of grass, pebbles or feathers above ground. Magellanic penguins, however, often nest in shallow burrows up to 1 metre long.
9. To keep their feet above freezing, penguins have heat exchangers at the top of their legs which transfer heat from the warm blood flowing to the feet, to warm the blood flowing back into their body.
10. The fossil record shows that penguins evolved over 60 million years ago. Their closest living relatives are petrels, albatrosses and divers. A now-extinct species of giant penguin was discovered in New Zealand and had a height of 1.77m making it taller than most humans!