2006 Wikipedia CD Selection

Chinstrap Penguin, Pygoscelis antarctica
Chinstrap Penguin, Pygoscelis antarctica
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Sharpe, 1891
Family: Spheniscidae
Bonaparte, 1831

Penguins (order Sphenisciformes, family Spheniscidae) are an order of flightless birds living in the southern hemisphere.

Species and habitats

There are either 17 or 18 known species worldwide, depending on whether the two Eudyptula species are counted as distinct. Although all penguin species are native to the southern hemisphere, they are not, contrary to popular belief, found only in cold climates, such as Antarctica. In fact, only a few species of penguin actually live so far south. Three species live in the tropics; one lives as far north as the Galápagos Islands (the Galápagos Penguin) and will occasionally cross the equator while feeding.

The largest species is the Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri): adults average about 1.1 meters (3 ft 7 in) tall and weigh 35 kilograms (75 lb) or more. The smallest penguin species is the Little Blue Penguin (also known as the Fairy Penguin), which stands around 40 cm tall (16 in) and weighs 1 kilogram (2.2 lb). Generally larger penguins retain heat better, and thus inhabit colder regions, while smaller penguins are found in temperate or even tropical climates. The rarest type of penguin is the yellow-eyed penguin (megadyptes antipodes) and is probably the most ancient of all living penguins. adults average about 65cm tall and the adults average weight is 5-6 kilograms

Most penguins feed on krill, fish, squid, and other forms of sealife caught while swimming underwater. They spend half of their life on land and half in the oceans.

Due to the gender ratio, penguins are one of the few species on the planet whose females fight over single males during mating season, due to the comparatively low number of male penguins.

One of the most baffling forms of behaviour of the penguin comes when a mother loses her chick, either due to its being unable to endure its first storm, or due to other reasons such as predators. When a mother loses its chick, they have been known to actually attempt to steal another mother's living chick- presumably in order to deal with the grief of the loss. This behaviour has amazed scientists, as it is an emotional outburst opposed to an instinctual behaviour; something many animals do not exhibit when losing their young. Many have used this as prime evidence for decades that many animals have near human-like emotions and feelings, often for the sake of animal rights. Interestingly, the other females in the penguin groups dislike this behaviour and will help the defending mother keep her chick. Penguins seem to have no fear of humans, and have approached groups of explorers without hesitation.


Penguins are actually very old birds. The oldest fossils of penguins emerged in the Eocene era more than 40 million years ago. These fossils proved that prehistoric penguins were already flightless and seagoing, so their origins may go as far back as 65 million years ago.


Penguins are superbly adapted to an aquatic life. Their wings have become flippers, useless for flight in the air. In the water, however, penguins are astonishingly agile. Within the smooth plumage a layer of air is preserved, ensuring buoyancy. The air layer also helps insulate the bird in the icy waters of the Antarctic. The plumage of penguins in tropical and temperate zones is much thinner.

On land, penguins use their tails and wings to maintain balance for their upright stance.

All penguins have a white underside and a dark (mostly black) upperside. This is for camouflage. A predator looking up from below (such as an orca or a leopard seal) has difficulty distinguishing between a white penguin belly and the reflective water surface. The dark plummage on their backs camouflages them from above.

Diving penguins reach 6 to 12 km/h, though there are reports of velocities of 27 km/h (which are probably realistic in the case of startled flight). The small penguins do not usually dive deep; they catch their prey near the surface in dives that normally last only one or two minutes. Larger penguins can dive deep in case of need. The Emperor Penguin has been recorded reaching a depth of 1500 feet (450 metres) and staying submerged for 18 minutes.

Penguins either waddle on their feet or slide on their bellies across the snow, a movement called "tobogganing", which allows them to conserve energy and move relatively fast at the same time.

Penguins have an excellent sense of hearing. Their eyes are adapted for underwater vision, and are their primary means of locating prey and avoiding predators; in air, conversely, they are nearsighted. Their sense of smell has not been researched so far.

They are able to drink salt water safely because their supraorbital gland filters excess salt from the bloodstream. [1] [2] [3] The salt is excreted in a concentrated fluid from the nasal passages.

Penguins have no external genitalia. [4] Consequently, chromosome testing must be done in order to determine a penguin's sex.

Mating Habits

Some penguins mate for life, while others for just one season. They generally raise a small brood, and the parents cooperate in caring for the clutch and for the young.

Male bonding behaviour

In early February 2004 the New York Times reported a male pair of chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo in New York City were partnered and even successfully hatched a female chick from an egg. Other penguins in New York have also been reported to be forming same-sex pairs.

This was the basis for the children's picture book And Tango Makes Three. The couple about whom the book was based, Silo and Roy, would see further interesting developments in their relationship when, in September 2005, Silo left Roy, for a female penguin only to come back to Roy in a few weeks.

Zoos in Japan and Germany have also documented male penguin couples. The couples have been shown to build nests together and use a stone to replace an egg in the nest. Researchers at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, found twenty such pairs at sixteen major aquariums and zoos in Japan. Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany attempted to break up the male couples by importing female penguins from Sweden and separating the male couples; they were unsuccessful. The zoo director stated the relationships were too strong between the couples.




  • Family Spheniscidae
    • King Penguin, Aptenodytes patagonicus
    • Emperor Penguin, Aptenodytes forsteri
    • Gentoo Penguin, Pygoscelis papua
    • Adelie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae
    • Chinstrap Penguin, Pygoscelis antarctica
    • Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes chrysocome
    • Fiordland Penguin, Eudyptes pachyrhynchus
    • Snares Penguin, Eudyptes robustus
    • Royal Penguin, Eudyptes schlegeli
    • Erect-crested Penguin, Eudyptes sclateri
    • Macaroni Penguin, Eudyptes chrysolophus
    • Yellow-eyed Penguin, Megadyptes antipodes
    • Little Penguin (Blue or Fairy Penguin), Eudyptula minor
    • White-Flippered Penguin, Eudyptula albosignata
    • African Penguin (Jackass Penguin), Spheniscus demersus
    • Magellanic Penguin, Spheniscus magellanicus
    • Humboldt Penguin, Spheniscus humboldti
    • Galápagos Penguin, Spheniscus mendiculus


Penguin is thought by some to derive from the Welsh words pen (head) and gwyn (white), applied to the Great Auk, which had a conspicuous white patch between the bill and the eye (although its head was black), or from an island off Newfoundland known as "White Head" due to a large white rock. This may be, however, a false etymology created by Dr John Dee in his book on Prince Madoc of Wales, supposedly one of the discoverers of America. By this Dee hoped to cement Queen Elizabeth I's claim, as a Tudor, to the New World. Penguins live nowhere near Newfoundland, nor do they generally have white heads, however Great Auks did and look remarkably like penguins. According to another theory, the original name was pen-wing, with reference to the rudimentary wings of both Great Auks and penguins. A third theory is that penguin comes from the Latin pinguis (fat). This is a theory, because of two other Germanic languages: Dutch 'pinguïn' and German 'Pinguin' both have the 'i' vowel too. While it has been replaced by an 'e' in the English spelling, it can still be heard. By simply looking at the word's pronunciation and comparing that to the Dutch and German words, one could assume a common Latin borrowing into these Germanic languages - after the first Germanic sound shift (500-200 BC) that makes a PIE 'p' into a 'f', of course. However, a Welsh 'i' is often mutated to an 'e' in the English language so the Welsh origin is still a strong theory.

Penguins in popular culture

Penguins are popular around the world primarily for their unusually upright, waddling pace and (compared to other birds) lack of fear towards humans. Their striking black and white plumage is often likened to a tuxedo suit and generates humourous remarks about the bird being "well dressed".

Perhaps in reaction to this cutesy stereotype, fictional penguins are occasionally presented as grouchy or even sinister. The popular Sanrio character Badtz Maru is an example, being cute yet somewhat surly. Feathers McGraw is a wanted criminal. The 1960s television cartoon character Tennessee Tuxedo would often escape the confines of his zoo with his partner, Chumley the walrus. Also, the webcomic Fluble features an enormous penguin conspiracy run by numerous diabolical, if often inept, penguins. In the children's movie Madagascar (film), the penguins are cast as spies. In the animated series "Wallace and Gromit", a penguin disguises himself as a chicken to steal a pair of robotic pants. Penguins are often portrayed as friendly and smart as well. Another example is in the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, which features a warm-water penguin named Pen Pen.


  • Sega's 1982 video-game Pengo stars a penguin.
  • A penguin (often named Pentarou) is a main character in a number of 1980s Konami games (namely Antarctic Adventure and Penguin Adventure), and shows up as a mascot in others.
  • Penguins are featured in the computer game Pingus, similar to the classic computer game Lemmings.
  • Penguins feature prominently in the popular Yetisports series of Flash games.
  • The Linux mascot Tux is a penguin, and is featured in several computer games, such as Tux Racer.
  • The Gentoo Linux distribution is named after the Gentoo Penguin.
  • The Nintendo 64 game Super Mario 64 features a level in which a mother and baby penguin are prominent characters. These penguins are favorite characters of Nintendo producer Shigeru Miyamoto and go on to appear in other Nintendo titles such as Mario Kart 64, Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix, and Mario Pinball Land.
  • The penguin appears in a recent edition of the video game Pitfall. In fact, one part of the game involves fighting the protagonist as a penguin. Strangely unlike the typical South American penguins, the penguins from Pitfall have crests like the crested penguins.
  • The website War Of The is one of several sites that talk about "evil penguins." The website concentrates on the military invasion of the world by a hypothetical Penguin Army.


  • The penguin is an unofficial symbol of the United States Libertarian Party.
  • Penguin Vic was a character created to promote tourism in Victoria


  • Opus the penguin was a main character in Berke Breathed's comic strips Bloom County, Outland, and Opus.
  • Sparky is a main character in the weekly cartoon This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow.
  • Pokey the Penguin is a popular webcomic.
  • Chilly Willy is another web comic, based on the (penguin) character from the Commodore 64 game Chilly Willy, a clone of Pengo. These only coincidentally share the same name as the theatrical cartoon character.
  • Frobisher is a penguin (actually, a shape-shifting alien who liked the penguin shape) who appeared in the Doctor Who Monthly comic strips in the 1980s. Despite not being strictly canon, he is considered an important part of the Doctor Who mythos.
  • DC Comics' Batman contains a villain named the Penguin, who has also appeared in movies and live-action television programs as well as cartoons.
  • Ted the penguin is a penguin of unknown age which inhabits the home of Ethan, Lucas, Scott and Lilah in the Ctrl Alt Del (webcomic), ostensibly as the pet of Scott, the web-comic's Linux guru.
  • Linus the penguin, named after Linux creator Linus Torvalds, is a character in the webcomic Nukees. He befriended Gav while the mad scientist was trapped in Antarctica after fleeing his creation, a homicidal AI named Teri. While Linus is not known to speak, Gav and the other Nukees seem to understand him, and he is quite good with computer hacking despite the lack of hands (he types with his beak


  • 3-2-1 Penguins! was a series of Christian animated videos for children. The series was produced by Big Idea Productions, the makers of VeggieTales, and its stories featured lessons from the Bible.
  • Chilly Willy is the name of an animated character in Walter Lantz's series of theatrical shorts. ( [5])
  • The animated film Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers features a ruthless criminal penguin named Feathers McGraw.
  • The protagonist of the dialogue-less Swiss animation Pingu, which has been running since 1982, is a penguin.
  • There were 4 penguins (Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private) featured as prominent (although not the main) characters in Dreamworks' 2005 animated film Madagascar. They were featured again as main characters in a short Christmas special, The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper. Private leaves the zoo to find a present for Ted the polar bear and is captured by an old NY lady. The other penguins must rescue him.
  • One of the main villains of the movie Batman Returns was the Penguin who, in the film, was raised by penguins. In this movie he also formed an army of penguins to attack Gotham city. Their equipment included back mounted rockets and laser eye sights.
  • The anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion featured Pen-Pen, a pet/mascot.
  • The documentary March of the Penguins (2005) details a year in the life of a colony of Emperor Penguins mating, giving birth, and hunting for food in the harsh continent of Antarctica.
  • The movie Billy Madison featured a penguin that was a nemesis of Adam Sandler's character.
  • There was a penguin character named Wheezy in Disney's Toy Story 2. He would later make a cameo appearance at the beginning of the direct-to-video Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins.
  • Martini the penguin is a major supporting character in the Christmas television special Olive, the Other Reindeer. He earns his living selling fake watches.
  • Mr Forbush and The Penguins (Mr Forbush and The Penguins at The Internet Movie Database)
  • The penguin is Jack's power animal in Fight Club.
  • The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin is a ten minute animated film based on the story of Cinderella, featuring a cast of medieval penguins. It was directed by Janet Perlman and produced by the National Film Board of Canada.
  • Happy Feet is an upcoming movie featuring penguins, released under Warner Bros.
  • Blue Planet: Seas of Life features penguins in their arctic segment.


  • The children's book Mr. Popper's Penguins details Mr. Popper and his 12 performing penguins.
  • Three children's books by Janet Perlman--Cinderella Penguin, The Emperor Penguin's New Clothes, and The Penguin and the Pea--retell classic children's stories with a penguin twist.
  • Penguin Island by Anatole France
  • Learning to Fly by Sebastian Meschenmoser
  • H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness notably features giant blind albino penguins around an underground sea in Antarctica.
  • Another literary penguin can be found in the children's book "One Hot Penguin", by Jamie Rix

Sports mascots

  • Penguins are the namesake of the Pittsburgh Penguins ( mascot's name: "Iceburgh") of the National Hockey League, their farm team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and the sports teams of Youngstown State University (mascot's name: "Pete").
  • The school mascot of New England Conservatory of Music (Boston, MA) is the Fighting Penguin.


  • Penguin, Tasmania is a town in Tasmania, Australia, located at 41°7′0″S, 146°4′15″E ( Map Quest).

Audio CDs

  • Frobisher, the talking alien penguin from the DWM comics, has appeared in several of the licensed Doctor Who audio plays produced by Big Finish, including The Holy Terror and The Maltese Penguin.
  • Sack Trick's second album, Penguins on the Moon, is the tale of four heroic penguins who journeyed to the moon in search of a more habitable climate.
  • dredg's fifth album El Cielo features a song called "Triangle" with repetitious lyrics asking "We live like Penguins in the desert, why can't we live like tribes?"
  • Woob's Woob1194 album features Emperor Penguins on the album cover.
  • Italian progressive rock band Murple's 1974 album Io Sono Murple tells the story of a penguin named Murple who leaves his home in Anarctica and encounters the Evil Man.

Penguins and Polar Bears: The Misconception

Despite what commercials and other sources may show, the likelihood of a meeting between a penguin and a polar bear without human intervention is vanishingly small. This is because the two species are found on opposite hemispheres. Polar bears inhabit the northern hemisphere, while penguins mainly inhabit the southern hemisphere. This is a misconception that is fueled by popular culture such as movies and television. A prominent example of this takes place in a Holiday 2005 ad campaign by Coca-Cola featuring the partying penguins and the polar bears watching from afar.

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