Come and enjoy with me some of the most useful information about penguins. Penguins are the flightless seabirds that are perfectly adaptable for living in cooler climates and swimming at a speed not many creatures reach. They have flippers instead of wings which are covered with scale-like, stiff and short feathers. The penguin’s body is so shaped that it facilitates breeding on coasts and islands that are normally faraway to land predators. It was Pigafetta, the historian, who discovered penguins for the first time in 1520. Penguins have many features in common with other birds such as courtship behavior, salt glands, colonial breeding, territorial fighting, and individual recognition. Penguins are classified into breeders and non-breeders and are extremely social with the exception of single penguins which live on high seas.
Information about Penguins | Penguin’s Locomotion
While on land penguins are seen walking upright because their legs are committed more posteriorly as compared to those in other birds. King and emperor penguins are the largest penguin species and they walk slowly and clumsily. Rockhopper penguins are the small species that jump from boulder to boulder. On a slanted surface, penguins glide on their bellies while their legs support them to propel.
Penguins by Groups | Information about Penguins
Penguins can be as heavy as 30 kg or more such as emperor penguins; and can be as light as 1 kg such as little blue penguin. The king and emperor penguins seem more likely in their behavior and form the genus Aptenodytes. The emperor penguin, being the largest contender in the penguin species, is the only bird that does not require visiting solid land for the whole life. These largest penguins can dive up to 60 meters into water and can go by four months without eating.
Penguins inhabit the southern moderate zone ranging from Antarctic to subantarctic zones including north to the tropics. Speaking longitudinally, penguins occupy the African, South American, New Zealand and Australian forms. Penguins are mostly found foraging, breeding, and migrating in groups perhaps due to the fact that living in groups offer an additional advantage against predators. Harmonization of breeding not only offers communal chick defense and immediate migration but also guards the young from extreme predation.
Normally, the basic unit of penguins is composed of an adult and one or two young. They feed and defend their young from potential predators while staying in nest. Some of the most common activities of penguins are;
- Synchronized breeding
- Mutual stimulation
The breeding group often involves in the communal crèche security. The penguins within the same colony have good relations with their counterparts but they are not good with species living in other colonies. This follows that the relative penguins would guard and defend their young from the outside and are often involved in the interspecific competition within the colony.
Penguins as Diving Birds | Information about Penguins
Penguins are the only species belonging to the avian order in which all birds not only specialized for diving but are flightless. Unsurprisingly, amazing adaptations of these flightless birds for the oceanic life, have gathered physiologists to study their behavior.
The prey-availability underwater is what determines the diving depths of penguins and the prey varies with the season. However, penguins primarily prey on fish, cephalopods, and fish; but most of the prey is found at the water surface which means penguins don’t often dive deeply. While penguins generally stay under water for a while, emperor penguins are the only species that can dive for 18 minutes which is a record. In general, many penguins do not stay underwater for more than 1 minute. Gentoo penguins can remain submerged for up to 2 minutes. Emperor penguins often dive in a depth of 45 – 265 meters; however, king penguins rarely go beyond 240 meters water-depth.
Generally speaking, three major difficulties facing diving birds; 1) lack of oxygen during the dive; 2) hydrostatic pressure giving rise to the compression effects; and 3) a thermoregulation in the water. On the positive side, diving birds do not undergo too much harmful effects as they make shallow dives of short duration. Another strange fact about diving birds is that they have more blood as compared to non-diving birds; besides, their blood has a propensity for higher oxygen capacity.
Waterbirds generally have more myoglobin as compared to land birds. Penguins store more proportion of oxygen in their air sacs and lungs in comparison to the seals. A penguin weighs up to 5 kg has an estimated oxygen reserve of 250 ml. The oxygen would last up to 2.5 minutes when penguin is at rest. The oxygen last for up to 6 minutes in the penguin’s body.
- Gentoo and Adelie penguins reduce their heart rate from 80 – 100 to 20 when they dive.
- Unlike land mammals, diving birds and mammals are less prone to carbon dioxide.
- Penguin’s feathers are responsible for 80 percent of thermal regulation.
- Emperor penguins have a waddling speed of 2.8 km/h while that of adelie penguins have 3.9 km/h.
The Role of Penguins in the Ecosystem | Information about Penguins
Penguins are the carnivorous birds and they acquire their entire energy from ocean. They are often predated by sea lions, killer whales, and leopard seals. As compared to Gentoo penguins, macaroni penguins stay longer in water and forages faraway from land. Gentoo penguins typically nurture two young while macaroni raises only one young which is why the former has to return more often. Emperor penguins generally save more energy since they move too little.