Those Amazing Penguins

The movie, The March of the Penguins, has raised a great amount of interest in penguins. One never imagined penguins to be so driven. Here’s an overview of the amazing penguins.

Known as the little tuxedos, penguins have always seemed a bit odd as animals go. All of that changed, however, with The March of the Penguins, a movie about Emperor Penguins. The movie focuses on the incredible hardships these penguins undergo to be parents. If you haven’t seen the movie, rent it now. It will make you laugh, cry and develop a healthy respect for these majestic animals.

Penguins live in a fairly limited area. They’re primary home is Antarctica. Penguins can also be found in the cold costal areas of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. There are no penguins in the Arctic. This is the opposite of polar bears which are not found in Antarctica.

There are seventeen species of penguins. The smallest are Rockhoppers, which average roughly twelve inches in height. On the other end of the spectrum are the Emperor Penguins, which average nearly 48 inches in height.

Penguins feed in the water, not on the ice of Antarctica. A typical meal consists of fish, squid or krill. Penguins can hold their breath underwater for six minutes, six times the average human. They are extremely strong swimmers, but can’t swim backwards.

As March of the Penguins revealed, penguins have a unique breading cycle. They only breed once a year and in protected areas called rookeries. Much like salmon, penguins return to the same rookeries each year. Depending on ice flow conditions, they may travel up to 70 miles to reach the rookeries.

Once at the rookeries, penguins will flirt with each other until they find the perfect mate. The female will lay only one egg. She will push the egg to the male who holds it on the top of his feet with his stomach fat hanging over it to keep it warm. He will do this for nine straight weeks and go without food. While he loses up to fifty percent of his body weight, the mother will head back to the ocean to feed as much as she can. She will then return to the rookeries just as the egg hatches and feed the baby from her mouth. The male, in turn, will head off to the ocean to eat and recover his body weight.

When you see penguins in a zoo or water park, you should feel sorry for them. Because they are natives of Antarctica, the natural defense systems in their body are not tailored to germs found outside of the frozen continent. As a result, large numbers die from diseases caused by germs they have no defense to.

Most people, me included, never have given a second thought to penguins. That is too bad since they are truly amazing creatures.

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