Penguins

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Penguins are seabirds that have been endangered for a long time. They live in the Southern Hemisphere in places ranging from the Galapagos Islands to the coast of Antarctica. Penguins cannot fly. An ancient species, penguins are said to have first appeared in the Eocene era around 40 million years ago. Most species of bird from those times, such as Palaeeudyptes and Pachydyptes, are now extinct. Most fossils found of penguins are large, but not larger than today’s Emperor Penguin.

Why should I be aware of this?

Of the 17 species of penguins in the world 3 species are endangered and 9 others are threatened. The penguins are adversely affected by

  • Man-made pollution destroying food sources.
  • Global warming and even deforestation.
  • Penguins are particularly threatened by oil spills - The oil gets on their feathers and they get it in their beaks when they preen. Their eggs will contain traces of oil.

All about Penguins

  • Penguins are social creatures.
  • They adapt to various climates.
  • They live in large colonies called rookeries.
  • They waddle when they walk.
  • Penguins communicate with each other through body language.
  • They spend most of their lives in water.
  • The greatest number is found on the coasts of Antarctica and on the subantarctic islands.
  • Of the 17 species of penguins, the largest, such as the Emperor and Adelie penguins, are found in the Antarctic.
  • Penguins eat fishes, squid and krill.
  • To avoid predators, most penguins take a nap in the sea.
  • Penguins have good vision both above and below the water. They can alter the shape of the lens of the eye to adapt to both land and water.

Natural habitat problems

  • Breaking of icebergs -- Icebergs go miles below the ocean surface and several miles above too, so penguins cannot go over or under them. Sometimes icebergs can block the way to their food supply and penguins have to walk an additional thirty miles more than usual to get to their food route and the baby chicks must wait longer for their meal. By the time they arrive at their chicks, there is less food available to regurgitate.
  • Weather -- Penguins breed in the winter. Because of the bitter cold, only 90% of the newly laid eggs hatch. And these have to survive nine weeks of bitter weather while the mother goes on a feeding spree.
  • Attack from other predators -- Many birds such as the Great Skuas and the Dolphin Gulls attack the penguins' eggs and chicks. Sharks and killer whales sometimes eat penguins, as well. Baby chicks also fall victim to leopard seals.
  • Boats --A few commercial boats, such as oil tankers and speedboats, do great damage to penguins.

Penguin and the environment

There are a lot of discussions about the impact of the ozone hole on the penguins. However, there are no studies that show that penguins are affected by the ultra violet (UV) rays. As their eyes are exposed to a lot of UV due to the high reflectivity of snow and a marked enhancement during the ozone hole, investigation into the impact on penguins is desirable. The fact that penguins are visual predators, eating krill or fish in the water column, would make any eye damage an important issue for survival.

90 degrees

The only nesting penguins found on the African continent, Jackass penguins are considered a "threatened", but not endangered, species.

The current population of around 160,000 birds is down from 1.2 million in the early 1920s.

Apart from pollution, the major threat to the penguins is competition for food with humans. The birds eat pilchards and anchovies, which are heavily fished in the area.

CopperBytes

  • The most vulnerable penguin is the yellow-eyed penguin, which inhabits the coasts and offshore islands of southeast New Zealand. The yellow-eyed penguin population is estimated at less than 7,000.
  • Penguins can walk faster than humans.
  • They can hold their breath for about 20 minutes under water.
  • All penguins live to the south of the equator.
  • Penguins have denser feathers than most other types of birds having as many as 70 feathers per square inch.

References

  • The Flightless seabird;WWF
  • Penguin Facts
  • Animal Bytes
  • Penguin facts
  • BBC News|Threatened species