Penguins are seabirds, first identified in the polar zones around 1600 by a group of explorers. They belong to the Spheniscidae family , but despite being birds and possessing a body covered in feathers, they are not capable of flight due to their own anatomy.
They are surely one of the most popular and charismatic animals in these latitudes, but many people are unaware of many of their characteristics and way of life.
How are penguins
While penguins’ wings do not allow them to fly, they are not useless, in fact they are very important for their survival. The penguin’s wings become flippers, allowing them to swim at high speeds (approximately 60 km / h) when threatened by predators, due to their strong bones capable of withstanding large impacts and reducing their buoyancy in the water. Their natural predators are usually sea lions, sharks, seals and, above all, killer whales. The orcas pose the greatest threat to their survival.
Penguins keep important oxygen reserves during their dives, not only in the lungs, but also in their muscles, which have high amounts of myoglobin (a protein that stores and transports oxygen in the muscles). Despite this, the immersion time varies between penguin species, being the highest in the emperor penguin (around 18 minutes).
These animals are fully adapted to maintain their body heat in the conditions of their habitats, thus they have three layers of feathers, thick layers of fat and blood vessel systems in fins and legs that allow them to regulate heat losses with the environment depending on of the temperature of its habitat. The size of their bodies also influences: species from more temperate zones are smaller in size, dissipating heat faster than larger species.
In terms of behavior, there are very territorial species , especially when making nests. The nests are usually built with branches, stones and leaves, some are underground and others are superficial. However, the emperor and king penguins lay an egg and hatch it between their legs. The incubation period is usually between 33 and 62 days, depending on the species. If two eggs are laid, usually only one survives. When they are chicks, they squawk, requesting food and protection, but from the first molt, they are independent, which usually happens after two or three weeks.
Penguins are carnivorous animals , which eat shellfish and fish such as:
- Other cephalopods.
The search for food is their main activity throughout the day, spending up to 70% of the day submerged and looking for food. Once captured, they are able to grab their prey with small hooks located at the ends and the presence of hairs or bristles on the tongue, with which they retain food.
When it comes to drinking water, most of the water they consume is sweet , although they can also drink salt water. This is thanks to regulatory glands in your body, which allow you to remove excess salt.
Where penguins live?
Penguins live exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere and, contrary to what we see on television, they do not coexist with the polar bear , while they are not found in the Northern Hemisphere.
The main areas where we can find penguins are the coastal areas of the Antarctic continent and some surrounding areas such as:
- New Zealand.
- Falkland Islands.
Also, penguins can be found in the Galapagos Islands and South Africa , but high temperatures and climatic changes are a serious threat to them. In fact, climate change is destroying their natural habitats, in the following article you can see the consequences of the melting at the poles . So, if you were wondering where penguins live at the north or south pole, you now know that they live at the south pole.
Penguins are extremely interesting animals, did you know these curiosities about penguins ?:
- They are warm-blooded: their body temperature ranges between 36 and 38 degrees, due in part to their thick layers of fat and their plumage.
- When they are in colony, they are grouped very tightly between them, to give each other warmth.
- If they are not in colonies, they secrete an oil that waterproofs their feathers, thanks to glands.
- They sleep standing up.
- Penguins orient themselves thanks to sunlight, with which they know their time to dive and identify their migration routes.