NB: I had the opportunity to see the Australian species of penguin myself a while back! Check it out here.
I hinted that I wanted to write something about penguins a while back. I don’t have a good reason for going into it today, just that this is very important, for you to know the facts about penguins. I feel.
Common misconception numero uno: penguins are not birds.
Let me first be perfectly clear: penguins are a type of bird. You already knew that, right? We’re clear? Cool. I wouldn’t mention it except for that, whilst I was ranting about some obscure penguin fact to my mum, she stopped me and said, “Penguins…those are…birds, right?”
To be more descriptive, penguins are flightless birds of the family Spheniscidae. In fact, they make up their own order (Sphenisciformes), which contains nothing but penguins. (Very aloof, penguins.) Their nearest cousins are the Procellariiformes, or the tube-nosed seabirds, like albatrosses and petrels.
Common misconception #2: penguins can breathe underwater.
Well, they can’t, sorry. They are air breathers, like you (I assume you breathe air, but I guess I can’t really know for sure…you could be some sort of bony fish, after all).
But! They are supremely adapted for swimming. Streamlined, which, as we all know, is critical for speed under water.“Where R = 1 / 2DpAv2 D is the constant for the viscosity of the fluid, p is the density of the water, A is the surface area of the body traveling through the water, and v is the velocity of the body. Because the velocity is squared, the resistance will exponentially effected by the value of velocity, which is why it is important to minimize the surface area as much as possible.”
Common misconception #3: penguins don’t have feathers.
Not true, my friend! Penguins have feathers, just like any other bird. In fact, they have an extremely efficient insulating layer of down beneath a slick, water resistant layer of top feathers.
They maintain an internal body temperature between 37.8 and 38.9 C (that’s 100.4 to 102 F), even the ones that live in Antarctica, which leads me to the biggest misconception about penguins….
Common misconception #4: all penguins live in Antarctica. (or worse, all penguins live at the north pole)
That’s a bare-faced lie! In fact, the twenty-some species of penguins are distributed throughout the Southern Hemisphere (there are none in the Northern Hemisphere), and there is even a tropical species in the Galapagos. In terms of sheer numbers of species, New Zealand probably beats out Antarctica, although Antarctica has the largest species (Fig. 1).
This makes sense, given that penguins probably originated in New Zealand in the Cretaceous era.
The Australian penguin (the Little Blue Penguin), is pretty adorable. Here’s a video of Cookie, the Little Blue Australian Penguin. Poor thing has bumblefoot, which somehow makes him even more adorable.
Do you need more penguin videos? All you need is love!