Jul 2

And no, we don’t mean the chocolate biscuits! The penguins in question here are of the feathered variety and there are 18 species on ARKive. In honour of our brand new penguin-themed education module we decided to take a look into the lives of the members of the Spheniscidae family and reveal what makes penguins so cool…  

Potty about penguins   

Penguins are a group of flightless, aquatic birds that are found almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere, although this doesn’t mean they inhabit only cold climates. Many species are found in and around the Antarctic but they can also be found as far afield as New Zealand, South Africa and South America. The Galapagos penguin, as the name suggests, lives in the Galapagos Islands near the equator and as such is the most northerly living penguin species. Why not visit the ARKive species page to find out how the Galapagos penguin is adapted to life in the heat.      

Photo of a Galapagos penguin swimming

Galapagos penguin swimming in the sea surrounding the Galapagos Islands

Photo of a Galapagos penguin standing on a rock

Galapagos penguins are the most northerly living penguin species


Quite a variety   

Penguins come in all shapes and sizes ranging from the diminutive little penguin, standing at a mere 35cm, to the comparative giant that is the emperor penguin, reaching heights of 130cm! Their physical appearance is varied too; the northern rockhopper penguin has a particularly extravagant display of yellow plumage, while the chinstrap penguin appears as though it is wearing a black helmet and owes its name to the band of black feathers passing beneath its chin.    

Northern rockhopper penguin head detail, photo

Extravagant plumage of the northern rockhopper penguin

Photo of a chinstrap penguin portrait

Chinstrap penguin portrait with band of black feathers


Birds of a feather  

Two of the defining characteristics of birds are their wings and their feathers and these features are still present in penguins despite their inability to fly. Instead their feathers and wings have become adapted to suit their water based lifestyle. Penguins’ feathers are small, densely packed and have a waterproof outer coating of oil, while their wings have become flipper-like and aid in the generation of speed when swimming.  

Emperor penguin photo, feather detail

Emperor penguin, feather detail

Photo of adélie penguin walking

Adélie penguin walking across ice


Built for speed   

Penguins might not be the most elegant creatures when moving on land, but when it comes to the water it is another story altogether. They have streamlined bodies that enable them to move quickly and gracefully through the water, like the king penguin below, which comes in handy when hunting prey and avoiding predators.    

Photo of a king penguin swimming underwater

King penguin swimming underwater showing streamlined form

For more information about penguins why not take a look at our brand new Penguin Diversity education module.  

Or check out a collection of my favourite penguin images on ARKive.    

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Media Researcher 

  • Goran Vukmirica (July 2nd, 2011 at 8:10 pm):

    Magnificent and so cute animal!