Penguins are flightless birds highly adapted to life in marine environments. These aquatic predators feed on fish, krill and other marine life caught by swimming underwater.
Specialised cornea and lenses allow them to see clearly both on land and underwater, while short wings with fused bones and powerful flipper muscles give them extra power for swimming.
Penguins inhabit a wide variety of habitats, from islands and remote parts of continents that lack predators (because they cannot fly away) to seas teeming with krill and other tiny crustaceans, all featuring nutrient-rich waters which support healthy populations of penguins as well as other marine life.
Frogs are highly adapted to their marine environment and sensitive to changes in ocean temperature that might alter prey availability. Furthermore, they play an essential role both on land and at sea by transporting food back from their colonies in the sea and moving nutrients between environments by eating grass and sand as well as enriching soil with their excrement.
Penguins evolved from seabirds with wings millions of years ago and gradually lost the ability to fly for reasons related directly to survival and reproduction. Loss of flight may have allowed more efficient diving techniques as well as lessened competition among flying mammals for aquatic resources such as fish.
As they spend so much time in the water, their feathers need regular re-lubrication to reduce drag and stay waterproof. Their beaks use glands to produce oil that they use for this purpose; in addition, their feathers are coated in waterproofing material produced by their skin which helps regulate their body temperatures in cold conditions.
As humans have increased, penguin habitats have been significantly diminished since humans first made landfall. Predators like house cats and rats, which feed on penguin eggs and chicks, has had an especially negative effect on certain populations of penguins. Furthermore, climate change and decreased fish stocks have had negative repercussions for some penguin species as well.
As part of efforts to enhance penguin habitats, efforts are underway to enhance their condition. Establishing Marine Protected Areas around breeding colonies may prevent accidental captures by commercial fishing gear; this approach could also contribute to higher adult survival and reduced chick mortality from starvation and entanglement.
As seabirds, penguins are opportunistic feeders who consume whatever is available while diving and swimming. Penguins are piscivores – eating mostly animal meat such as fish, crustaceans and cephalopods such as squid.
Penguins utilize their sharp bills and tongues to capture prey in the water or scrape up krill on ice sheets. Though lacking teeth, penguins have spiky protrusions lining their beaks that help filter seawater as they consume their food.
As they hunt, gators use an incredible evolutionary adaptation known as the gizzard to store food at body temperature before it is digested by enzymes in their stomachs; this allows them to conserve energy when hunting while protecting it from spoilage by bacteria.
Squid are known to consume many other species of small fish in addition to sprats, cod, herring, mullets, silverfish and pilchards as part of their diet. Crustaceans such as shrimp, crabs and amphipods may also be eaten along with occasional feedings of zooplankton/phytoplankton; microscopic ocean plants which live underwater.
Parent penguins feed their young by partially digesting and regurgitating some of the fish they have caught, before regurgitating it directly into their chicks’ beaks for “brood care” to give them access to highly nutritious yet easy-to-digest sources of protein. If storing their food longer-term is required, an antibacterial substance is produced within their stomach that prevents bacteria from growing on un-digested food and keeps it fresh, known as refrigeration.
Some species of penguin, like emperors and kings, can store food for up to three weeks in their refrigerators before returning it to their chicks while hunting. When their chicks consume part of the stored meal they then discard any leftover undigested portions back to their parents so it can be regurgitated later.
A penguin’s sleek body, equipped with stiffened and flattened wings that form flippers, makes it perfectly adapted to life in marine environments. Able to remain submerged for around 20 minutes at a time and feeding on fish, crustaceans and cephalopods such as squid; its unique structure of haemoglobin allows it to withstand low oxygen levels as do its solid bones to reduce barotrauma, plus an ability to switch off non-essential organ functions when necessary.
Penguin breeding habits vary depending on species, but most breed in colonies called rookeries or waddles. While monogamous relationships between African, royal, and gentoo penguins may last years or even decades – this practice may or may not apply to emperor penguins.
Once a couple has mated, the male incubates the egg for around 65 days in an abdominal pouch that contains it – not unlike an incubator – while returning to sea for food during that period and feeding their chicks regurgitated food from both parents.
Both males and females of Adelie penguins re-mate every year, although they will select different partners depending on the season. Some species – like Adelie penguins – exhibit competitive mating habits wherein one partner returns to its territory 62% of the time.
Male penguins arrive first at their rookeries and are aggressive in protecting their territories, although studies have revealed that rockhopper penguins remain remarkably faithful to their territory and the same spot within it. Adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins have even been observed to pair back up as often as 90% of the time!
Penguins produce a wide variety of vocalizations that play an essential part in courtship. They bow, call out or flap their wings as displays of affection; or engage in social preening – grooming each other to strengthen bonds while waterproofing plumage in preparation for marine environments – which helps seal their relationships further.
Based on their species of penguin, some may build their nest by scraping out a depression in the ground and filling it with pebbles; others, including Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguins use stones from nearby rocks to construct their nests, placing it higher than surrounding rocks so as to retain more heat than usual. Crested Penguins tend to nest within rocks where holes have already been made before decorating it with leaves and twigs for decoration; finally Fiordland Penguins use nesting structures created between lava formations as they do their homes occupy.
As soon as two penguins meet at their colony, they go through an important courtship ritual involving bowing, preening and calling between each other. Female penguins in particular take great notice of how long a male will remain babysitting their eggs without running off to search for sustenance.
Once a couple has decided to mate, they will select an ideal nesting site together. Adelie, chinstrap and magellanic penguins dig burrows while rockhoppers prefer staying on natural hills or vegetation to avoid predators. Once this step is completed, comes the most crucial one – laying an egg. When the female passes it to her male partner he balances it on his feet before covering it with an abdominal fold until hatching occurs (which typically takes 65-75 days), making him incapable of going outside or feeding himself while wearing an abdominal fold cover over it (instead of feeding themselves during this period).
Once an egg hatches, male penguins reabsorb some nutrients through regurgitation to replenish themselves and return to sea together with their partner. It is remarkable how male penguins manage to find each other amidst thousands of other penguins when they arrive back at the colony after two months at sea, though their numbers appear slimmed-down; females will join other ladies at the beach before heading towards the water where feeding starts immediately.