10 Things You Didn’t Know About Penguins

Anyone travelling to Antarctica will probably agree that penguins are the stars of the show. Yes, you can look forward to hopefully spotting whales, seals and sea birds too, but it is the cute and cuddly penguins that are the main attraction. Generally inquisitive animals, intrepid travellers can often enjoy some fantastic photo opportunities as the black and white birds waddle up for a closer look.

But how much do you really know about penguins and their natural habitat? Here are 10 facts to prepare you for your wild encounter.


1. Of the 17 species of penguin that exist, only two live on the Antarctic continent for the entire year. Whilst gentoo, chinstrap and macaroni penguins can also be seen in Antarctica at certain times of the year, it is only emperor and king penguins who can call it their true home.

2. The term ‘countershading’ refers to the black and white colour of a penguin. The black on the top helps them blend in with the depths of the sea when seen from above and the white bottom half means they are hard to spot from underneath when they are on the surface of the water.

3. Penguins can survive the freezing temperatures of the Southern Ocean thanks to a layer of warm air trapped between their feathers and skin. This helps to insulate them and gets more effective as the penguin gets more active.


4. One of the reasons why penguins swallow small stones is that it helps them dive deeper.

5. Feathers are very important to a penguin’s survival. As well as keeping them warm, they are kept waterproof through oil that is secreted from a gland near the tail and spread all over the body. The feathers also moult all at once every year to keep them in perfect condition.

6. An adult emperor penguin could lose anything up to 26 pounds of weight as he incubates an egg, waiting for it to hatch.


7. The fastest penguin is the gentoo. Whilst other species swim at an average speed of 5 mph, gentoos can reach up to 22 mph.

8. Because penguins have eyes that are more adapted for underwater sight, it is believed that they are very short-sighted when on land. This could be one reason why they are happy to get so close to humans.

9. The oldest fossil from the penguin family was found in Antarctica in 1980. It is judged to be 60 million years old, meaning that a relative of the modern day penguin was alive during the time of the dinosaurs.


10. Penguins have been observed sliding on their stomachs – something known as ‘tobogganing’. With there being no practical reason for this (apart from possibly to travel faster) scientists believe this is mainly done for fun.

If you are excited at the chance to see penguins in their natural habitat, our Antarctica cruises can help make this a reality.


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