The tuxedo-ed gents and ladies of the South Pole may appear cute and cuddly to fans of March of the Penguins,but they don’t just dress to impress. In fact, their attire was most likely patterned for safety in the wild waters of the Antarctic – their black jackets blend into the shadows of the ocean to protect them from soaring hunters above, and their white shirts reflect like light to potential predators below.
But formal wear with a purpose isn’t the only thing these famously adorable birds do well.
As one of 40 flightless bird species, penguin bodies evolved to aid them in the water, where they spend up to 75% of their lives. With oil-slick feathers and feet doubling as flippers, penguins can swim up to 20 mph (32 km/hr) and down to depths of 270 feet (82 meters), while remaining under water between 15 and 20 minutes. Even their eyes have the special ability to see underwater more clearly than they do on land, making it relatively easy to maintain their seafood-only diet.
After long feeding sessions at sea, most penguins return to their monogamous mate on land. In Antarctica, where six of the 17 total penguin species cohabitate--each with populations in the high thousands--it’s a rather amazing feat that they often remain with the same breeding partner year after year. Females typically stray only if her male fails to come back to their predetermined breeding site.
If their relationship skills are subpar to anything, it’s their ability to raise children. For the Emperor penguin, the largest of the species and the star of March of the Penguins, the male is the one who keeps the egg warm while the mother goes out to feed for a nine-week incubation period. He does this by balancing the egg carefully on his feet, keeping it warm with his belly and under feathers. Once the chick hatches, he feeds it with milk he produces in his esophagus until the mother returns shortly after birth to switch roles; she’ll take over the feeding by regurgitating food into the beak of her young.
While on land, penguins become great socializers. They often huddle in groups of thousands to block out the far-below freezing temperatures, keeping a constant rotation so those who are cold on the outside can move to the middle for warmth. Even in crowds this large, and with poor eyesight, they manage to keep track of their loved ones by communicating in unique whistling sounds.
The daily life of a penguin might be a slow, methodical one, but every act and every body part has its purpose. These beautiful birds have the ability to entertain humans for hours, both in theaters and on the ice. Book your Antarctic cruise today and you could find yourself with a VIP pass to Antarctica’s live penguin show. Feel free to leave your tuxedo at home.
*Information for this article was used from the following resources: