Aug 12
African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) photo

African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)

Species: African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The African penguin is the only penguin species to breed on the African continent.

The African penguin is also known as the ‘jackass penguin’ due to its loud, braying call. Feeding on fish such as anchovies and sardines, African penguins are strong swimmers and can reach speeds of 20km/hour in the water. The African penguin is known to breed on 24 islands in southern Africa. Pairs return to the same site each year to breed. Both adults take turns to incubate the eggs and, following hatching, adults will guard and regurgitate food to the chicks. After 30 days the chicks are left in crèches while the adults forage.

It is estimated that the current African penguin population is just 10% of what it was at the turn of the 20th Century. These penguins are currently threatened by depleted fish stocks due to overfishing and oil spills. All of the breeding areas of the African penguin in South Africa are protected as Nature Reserves, and work to rescue oiled African penguins has been shown to be successful. Work to conserve fish stocks is crucial to protect the African penguin from extinction.

Find out more about the African penguin on the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums website.

See images and videos of the African penguin on ARKive.

Mar 24

Although Adélie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins share their western Antarctic Peninsula breeding grounds, new research has discovered that rising temperatures have been affecting the breeding cycles of the three species in different ways.

Photo of Gentoo penguin colony with chicks

Gentoo penguin colony with chicks. Gentoo penguin populations are thought to have increased on the Antarctic Peninsula

Tracking penguin colonies

Professor Heather Lynch and her colleagues from Stony Brook University used a combination of fieldwork and satellite imagery to track colonies of the three penguin species and monitor how their breeding cycles were affected by the region’s warming temperatures.

Currently, the Antarctic is considered to be one of the world’s most rapidly warming regions and is one of the areas most impacted by global climate change.

Photo of Adelie penguins walking along the beach

Adelie penguins walking along the beach. Adelie populations have declined in the Antarctic, possibly due to warming temperatures in the region

Shifting breeding cycles

According to Lynch’s research, warmer temperatures cause a shift in the breeding cycle, causing the Peninsula’s penguin inhabitants to lay their eggs earlier. The researchers found that the resident gentoo penguin population is able to adapt more quickly to this change, with these birds able to bring their egg laying dates forward by almost twice as much as the Adélie or chinstrap penguins. 

Lynch believes this may allow the gentoo penguin to better compete for the best nesting space. In addition, the gentoo prefers areas with less sea ice, and has been able to migrate further south into the Antarctic as the sea ice shrinks as a result of the warming temperatures.

While gentoo penguins are year-round residents on the Antarctic Peninsula, Adélie and chinstrap penguins migrate to the Peninsula to breed. The researchers believe that the Adélie and chinstrap penguins are not aware of the local conditions in the region until they arrive, and have not been able to advance their breeding cycles as rapidly as the gentoo penguin.

Chinstrap and Adélie penguins also rely more heavily on sea ice due to their dependence on Antarctic krill, a species which lives under the sea ice for parts of its lifecycle, for food.

Photo of Gentoo penguin adult and chick

Gentoo penguin adult and chick

Changing penguin populations

As a result of changing conditions in the region, the number of gentoo penguins has been increasing on the Antarctic Peninsula, while populations of both Adélie and chinstrap penguins have noticeably dwindled in recent years.

Analyses carried out by Lynch and her team have confirmed that populations of the Adélie penguin have decreased at almost all of its breeding locations on the Antarctic Peninsula. The researchers have also helped to resolve previous contradictory studies that suggest that the chinstrap penguin may benefit from decreasing sea ice, and have instead shown that populations of this species are also decreasing in the region.

The work by Lynch and her team has been published as a series of papers online in Polar Biology, Ecology and Marine Ecology Progress Series (MEPS).

Photo of chinstrap penguins on beach

Chinstrap penguins on beach. Chinstrap populations have also suffered as a result of rising Antarctic temperatures

Read the Stony Brook University press release about Lynch’s work.

Find out more about the Adélie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins on ARKive.

For more information on the Antarctic visit ARKive’s Antarctic ecoregion page.

Interested in how climate change is affecting the world’s species? Find out more on ARKive’s climate change pages, or enter our creative climate change challenge!

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 16

Valentine’s Day has been and gone but we’d like to spread a little more love, so as a thank you for sharing your favourite species with us on Twitter, we are featuring your Top Ten cool and cute critters right here in our blog!

1. Kakapo

Kakapo image

The nocturnal kakapo is the world's biggest parrot species

This feathered fellow was chosen because it is the world’s only flightless parrot, and the male attracts a female with a bellowing ‘boom’! The kakapo, a giant parrot with an owl-like face, is endemic to New Zealand, and sadly there are only thought to be around 127 individuals remaining.

2. Manatee

Manatee image

The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee

The gorgeous and tranquil manatee was chosen for being such a gentle giant! This large sirenian can consume between 10 and 15% of its body weight per day…that’s an awful lot of seagrass!

3. Blue whale

Blue whale image

The blue whale is so big that its heart is roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle!

Whales are pretty incredible species, and some of you chose the blue whale as an ultimate favourite due to its sheer size; the blue whale is the largest animal ever to have lived, being almost as large as a Boeing 737! Yet despite its size, this giant of the oceans feeds mainly on small shrimp-like krill.

4. Tiger

Tiger image

Young tigers are dependent on their mothers for at least 15 months

The majestic tiger was one of the favourites amongst the furred, and with its beautiful markings and powerful build, we can see why! The pattern and distribution of the stunning stripes on a tiger are unique to each animal, making identification of individuals possible. Sadly, poaching remains a threat to this incredible big cat.

5. Orangutan

Orangutan image

Orangutans are the slowest breeding of all mammal species

Orangutan means ‘person of the forest’ in the native languages of Indonesia and Malaysia, a description which certainly fits this enigmatic, human-like species. The long arms of the orangutan may reach up to two metres in length, perfect for giving their conspecifics a great big Valentine’s Day hug! Unfortunately, habitat destruction is a major threat to both species of orangutan.

6. Orca

Orca image

The shapes of an orca's dorsal fin and saddle patch are unique to each individual

The largest member of the dolphin family, the social orca, was chosen as a favourite for being graceful yet powerful. With its striking black and white markings, the intelligent orca, also known as the killer whale, is certainly an impressive animal, and the dorsal fin of a male can reach up to 1.8 metres in height.

7. Penguin

Emperor penguin image

Weighing up to 40 kilograms, the Emperor penguin is the heavyweight of the penguin world

Penguins were another of the most popular species choices, and they certainly are loveable creatures! The emperor penguin in particular shows great dedication to its family; the male will incubate an egg in sub-zero temperatures for several months without feeding. Now that’s true love!

8. Flamingo

Greater flamingo image

The greater flamingo is the most widespread of the flamingo species

The beautiful greater flamingo is instantly recognisable with its beautiful pink colouration, and long neck and legs. The highly social greater flamingo is the largest and palest of the flamingo species, and is known to swim to find food. This iconic bird nests in massive colonies containing more than 20,000 pairs, so no quiet dinner date for two where this species is concerned!

9. Gorilla

Eastern gorilla image

Young gorillas are not fully weaned until they are 3.5 years of age

The largest of the living apes, the gorilla was another of your favourite furries. This fascinating species lives in stable, cohesive family groups within tropical forests. With their cute, human-like faces and playful antics, it is hard not to feel engaged with these intelligent creatures.

10. Pangolin

Chinese pangolin image

The Chinese pangolin is terrestrial, but is capable of climbing trees and swimming

And finally, the strangest-looking creature from our top ten: the pangolin! Despite not being closely related to anteaters, the curious pangolin is sometimes known as the scaly anteater as it is highly specialised in feeding solely on ants and termites. I wouldn’t consider this to be a particularly delicious Valentine’s Day meal, but am sure the pangolin would beg to differ!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 9

Unique biological abilities captured the heart of Rebecca Goatman last week, will this week’s ARKive team member favour evolutionary aptitude over adorableness?

Helen Roddis – ARKive species text author

Favourite species: Emperor penguin

Why? I’ve had an obsession with penguins since I was little – at one point I could count more than 30 items of penguin-related paraphernalia in my room as I was growing up! My admiration for the penguin stems from the sheer amount of grit and determination it demonstrates – this steely bird breeds during the Antarctic’s harsh winter, when temperatures drop as low as -60°C and wind speeds reach up to 200 kilometres per hour. The male penguin is responsible for the incubation of the egg while the female feeds at sea, and so to survive the Antarctic’s extreme conditions, thousands of males will huddle together for protection against the cold. Amazingly, penguins in these huge formations are able to coordinate their movements to give all members of the huddle a chance to warm up!

Favourite image: 

Emperor penguin image

Adult and chick emperor penguins sleeping

The emperor penguin is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List. The large population size and wide range, it is not considered under threat. Global warming poses a future threat due to the reduction of sea ice, an important breeding ground for the emperor penguin. Increasing tourism and the disturbance it causes could also have a negative effect on this highly unique bird species.

See more emperor penguin photos and videos.

Get involved

 

What’s your favourite species? Spread the love for species this Valentine’s Day by tweeting about your favourite awesome animal or peculiar plant using the #LoveSpecies hashtag!

 

Jan 1

It’s that time of year again, the turkey supply has been exhausted, the sales have been ransacked and the festive celebrations are nearly over! But fear not, we are here to inspire some New Year cheer and get you in the mood to tackle 2012 head on, starting with planning those New Year’s resolutions!

Photo of American black bear scratching head

In need of some help with your New Year's resolutions?

 

Work on that waistline

After all the overindulgence of the festive period, one of the most popular resolutions has got to be to lose a little weight. This can be hard to master on cold winter nights, so we suggest you look to the dedicated emperor penguin for a little guidance. Emperor penguins are the only bird species to brave the bitter Antarctic winter, with males enduring the constant darkness of the winter months in order to incubate their egg.

Photo of emperor penguin adult and chick walking along ice

Emperor penguin males lose up to 50% of their body weight while incubating their egg

This often results in the males losing as much as half of their body weight – more through necessity than choice, but still a stunning example of how hard work and endurance pay off!

Get fighting fit

If dieting is not your thing, why not knock lethargy on its head this New Year and get fit. Take a leaf out of the spinner dolphin’s book, this acrobatic mammal can be seen leaping from the water and spinning through the air in tropical seas worldwide. If spinning isn’t your idea of a good time, why not try your hand at some of the other activities enjoyed by our animal assembly including sprinting, long distance running, diving or boxing?

Photo of spinner dolphin leaping and spinning

Spinner dolphins are certainly not lacking in energy!

 

Break down your language barrier

¿Por qué no aprender un nuevo idioma? Or for those not familiar with Spanish – why not learn a new language? This is a resolution that I think would be endorsed by the Albert’s lyrebird, who has a spectacular array of sounds in its arsenal, developed due to the awesome ability to accurately mimic other species.

Photo of Albert's lyrebird male displaying and calling

Why not learn a new language?

 

Looking for love?

If the festive spirit has left you feeling romantic then why not look for love in 2012, but do spare a thought for the animals that put their life on the line to do the same. Male ladybird spiders have to tread carefully when approaching the burrow of a prospective female in order to correctly pluck the trip wires surrounding the burrow entrance. One wrong move and the female may mistake him for her next meal!

Photo of male and female ladybird spiders with egg sac

The male ladybird spider (right) has to be careful not to end up as dinner!

 

Give a helping hand

As social beings we tend to gain satisfaction from helping others, whether by volunteering our time or donating our resources. In biological terms this is known as a mutualistic relationship and there are plenty of examples of this in nature. The fanged pitcher plant has a mutualistic relationship with a particular species of ant which forms nests in the hollow tendrils of the plant. The ant is able to traverse the inner walls of the pitcher plant without falling in and being digested by the plant and is even able to safely hunt in the pitcher fluid.

Close up photo of a pitcher of the fanged pitcher plant

The fanged pitcher plant happily houses ants in return for a favour

In return the ant removes large prey items from the pitcher fluid. If left they would begin to decay before they were digested, which could be detrimental to the pitcher plant – win win I’d say!

Out with the old and in with the new!

What better time of year to embark on a spring clean; delve through those drawers and finally get to the back of that wardrobe. Everyone feels better after a good tidy up and it seems that this is not restricted to just us humans, the Vogelkop bowerbird also likes to maintain a tidy living space. The males pay meticulous attention to the position of each of the decorations within their conical bower, as after all, no self-respecting female bowerbird is going to choose a male with an unkempt bower.

Photo of male Vogelkop bowerbird in bower arranging ornaments

The male Vogelkop bowerbird likes to keep his bower neat and tidy

 

Got itchy feet?

The world is a fascinating place with scores of spectacular sights to see, meaning travel is an increasingly popular aspiration. There are many epic journeys occurring in the animal kingdom annually, and it’s not only birds and mammals that migrate. The monarch butterfly makes one of the largest invertebrate migrations, covering distances as great as 3,000 miles to their wintering grounds.

Photo of large numbers of monarch butterflies in flight

Monarch butterflies undertake massive annual migrations - where will you go?

This doesn’t mean you have to travel hundreds of miles to discover something new of course. Why not uncover some hidden treasures closer to home, see what can be found near you using Search by Geography.

 

Good luck with any resolutions made, from all here at ARKive we wish you a very Happy New Year!

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Education Officer

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