Waddle you do to celebrate World Penguin Day?

by Willie Mackenzie

April 24, 2014

Gentoo penguins on Piron Island (South Georgia) in the Atlantic Ocean. Eselspinguine (Pygoscelis papua) auf Piron Island (Suedgeorgien) im Atlantischen Ozean.

© Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace

Its World Penguin Day today, and I simply cant imagine a world that didnt have penguins in it. So in order to celebrate our funny fine-flippered friends I thought it would be good to pull together some fun 4-1-1 on penguins. [caption id="attachment_26079" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Penguins in Antarctic waters. Penguins checking out each others style in Antarctic waters.[/caption] All wild penguins live in the Southern Hempishere. Although they are usually associated with the ice, only two species live on the continent of Antarctica. The Galapagos penguin is the only penguin that ever naturally ventures into the Northern Hemisphere on especially long feeding trips. [caption id="attachment_26097" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Um... What??!![/caption] The first bird actually called a penguin was the now-extinct Great Auk found in the North Atlantic. Bizarrely all the birds we know now as penguins were named after those birds, which aren't even closely related. Fossil evidence shows that penguins evolved before the dinosaurs died out. There are remains of giant, people-sizedpenguins. [caption id="attachment_26080" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Macaroni penguins. Yes, macaroni penguins. Macaroni penguins. Yes, macaroni penguins.[/caption] In comparison, the worlds smallest penguins are the Little Blue penguins. They are just over 30cm high on their flippers. (Yes, youre thinking you could fit one in your bag and keep it in your bathtub arent you?) Despite having brands of books,shirts, and biscuits named after them, penguins show little interest in literature and are confounded by biscuitwrappers because they lack opposable thumbs. [caption id="attachment_26098" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Don't need thumbs to smooch. Don't need thumbs to smooch.[/caption] Scientists have discovered that emperor penguins, the largest species, use a special bubble-power go-faster technology to increase their speed under water. [caption id="attachment_26086" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Emperor penguin joins a Greenpeace protest at Dumont D'Urville airstrip blockade. An emperor penguin joins a Greenpeace protest at Dumont D'Urville airstrip blockade.[/caption] To move fast through the water, penguins use a technique called porpoising.To move quickly over the ice, they switch to tobogganning.Curiously, porpoises neither usetoboggans nor do they use the word penguin as a verb. [caption id="attachment_26087" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Porpoising. Porpoising.[/caption] Penguins have been immortalized on the big and small screens: singing with Mary Poppins, plotting against Batman, stealing the Muppet Shows show, protecting the oceans with the Octonauts, and being a criminal mastermind in Wallace & Gromit. However it is the Happy Feet penguins who have accomplished the most, having used the medium of dance to try to get the United Nations to protect the entire Southern Ocean.* Penguins at London and Edinburgh Zoos only eat sustainably-sourced fish. Theyre verypicky and eco-conscious, you know. [caption id="attachment_26095" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Greenpeace meets King Penguin on Antarctica That granola bar better be sustainably sourced, hippie.[/caption] Adelie penguins love rocks. They use them to make nests. When they are in short supply, how do they get more rocks? Well the shocking truth is that female Adelie penguins think nothing of offering sex to neighboring males in exchange for a pebble. Pebble promiscuity is just the tip of the iceberg though. Early scientists in Antarctica deemed the sexual shenanigans of these cute birds too shocking for the public to know about. [caption id="attachment_26090" align="aligncenter" width="600"]An adelie penguin. You know what she's looking for. Or he. An adelie penguin. You know what she's looking for. Or he.[/caption] Penguin poo can be incredibly useful. Not only is it sometimes visible from space, but projectile pooing can be a handy way of deterring predators, or making a social comment. Penguins who had been the star attractions at Edinburgh Zoo for over a century had their beaks put out of joint when pandas arrived there recently. Some of them resorted to a dirty protest aimed at the queues of panda visitors. [caption id="attachment_26092" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Visible from space. Visible from space.[/caption] *Despite the best efforts of the Happy Feet penguins, the Southern Ocean is not yet protected. Thats why we are working with the Antarctic Oceans Alliance, and lobbying governments to come together to protect areas like the Ross Sea, which are vital for many penguins. You can help us, and the penguins, by supporting Ocean Sanctuaries. Check out #PenguinDay on Twitter. Penguins dont tweet, but you can.

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