Chapter 6: Penguins

A rockhopper penguin, image from Wikipedia

A rockhopper penguin, image from Wikipedia.

A Few Words About Penguins

For us penguins will be a short chapter.  There are seventeen species of penguins, and each one of them is remarkably interesting and fun. They reside completely in the Southern Hemisphere; from the Equator to Antarctica.

A penguin is a bird. Like all birds, penguins have feathers, beaks, and scaly claws. Penguin feathers are smaller than most other birds, and they have more of them than most other birds— nearly 71 feathers per square inch. In order to maintain their value as water-proof insulation, penguins must constantly preen their feathers. A gland near the base of a penguins tail, secretes oil that a penguin will use to coat its feathers.

Most birds have hollow bones, but penguins do not. Their small wings and high body weight make them unable to fly, however their large muscles make them great swimmers.

Like many fish, all penguins are dark on their backs and light on their stomachs. This “counter-shading” helps to camouflage them in the water. Penguins breed largely on predator free islands. Some make nests in underground burrows, some in above ground nests, and still others make no nests at all, holding the eggs on their feet instead. To find out where any of these species live, check out the interactive penguin map.

The Penguin Family

  1. Emperor penguin – Largest of the 17 species, emperors have lemon-yellow ear patches that open out onto the chest.
  2. King penguin – Another large penguin, the king penguin’s vivid orange, teardrop-shaped ear patches are closed off from the white chest.
  3. Adélie penguin – Adélies have the typical black and white “tuxedo” penguin color pattern. During the breeding season, adults have white eye-rings.
  4. Gentoo penguin – A white band runs eye-to-eye across the head.
  5. Macaroni penguin – A crest of orange plumes extends backwards.
  6. Rockhopper penguin – Look for red eyes and drooping yellow crests that start behind the eyes.
  7. Chinstrap penguin – A black “chinstrap” that runs underneath the chin.
  8. Fiordland crested penguin – Yellow crests above the eyes and a stout bill.
  9. Royal penguin – Royals are the only crested penguins that have white throats and cheeks.
  10. Snares Island penguin  – Darker and larger than the similar Fiordland crested penguins, with a heavier bill.
  11. Erect-crested penguin – An erect crest of feathers along its head.
  12. Yellow-eyed penguin – Yellow eyes and a yellow band that runs through each eye.
  13. Little Blue penguin – Slate blue feathers and silver-gray eyes identify this penguin, the smallest of all 17 penguin species.
  14. Magellanic penguin – Two distinct brown chest stripes.
  15. Humboldt penguin – One chest stripe.
  16. African penguin – Fleshy pink areas around and above the eyes.
  17. Galápagos penguin – A narrow white head stripe and almost totally black flippers.

Questions:

  1. Using the links above, provide an example of a penguin that nests by burrowing a hole in the ground. Provide an example of a penguin that makes a nest.
  2. Using the links above, or a data visualization from PEW, tell me which of the penguin species are considered endangered of extinction, and what are the main causes.
  3. How is it that penguins can spend all of that time standing on ice with their bare feet?  Let’s watch this YouTube Video, and you can record an explanation of how.  Also, tell me where we have heard of this before.
  4. Emperor penguins have lost the genes that allow most predators to taste savory (think the fatty taste of meat or fish.)  Explain at least one hypothesis as to why this may have happened.
  5. Watch Rodney the Penguin on a National Geographic Crittercam Dive. Explain his feeding strategy.
  6. The northern hemisphere has no penguins. However, members of the family Alcidae or “Auk” are superficially like penguins in many ways. When two unrelated groups of species evolve similar traits, it is called convergent evolution. Click on the link to the Alcidae link, and find out what characteristics they share with penguins.
  7. Penguins inhabit some of the coldest regions on the planet. Read a little bit about penguin thermoregulation and explain three adaptations that allow penguins to retain heat.
  8. Penguins don’t fly, but are amazing swimmers.  Describe three adaptations that enhance their ability to swim and dive.
  9. What is the difference between precocial and altricial birds? What type would penguins be precocial or altricial?
  10. Take the penguin quiz. Be sure to record the questions and your answers.