Penguins: Flightless Wonders of the Animal World
Two Species Coming Soon to the Tennessee
Tenn. (Jan. 23, 2007) – For as long as man has been
exploring the seven seas, penguins have inspired wonder
and brought smiles to anyone who sees these curious little
sailors dubbed the Great Auk, “pen gwyn” from
the Welsh term meaning white head. The Auk was a large,
flightless bird common throughout the North Atlantic.
The Great Auks had no natural predators and therefore,
no natural fear of humans. While Auks were very fast and
agile swimmers, they were large and clumsy on land. Auks
were soon hunted on a large scale for food, their eggs,
and even their downy feathers. Sadly the last pair was
killed in 1844 and the Great Auk became extinct.
there are 17 species of penguins living and breeding in the
Southern Hemisphere, which may have helped spare them the same
fate. Penguins face challenges throughout their home ranges.
Relatively warm weather species like the Galapagos and Humboldt
penguins can live as far north as the Equator. While the hearty
giants of the Antarctic, the Emperor penguins reside virtually
on the South Pole.
are perhaps the most social of all birds. These birds of a
feather flock together in colonies throughout the Antarctic
islands. Sometimes these rookeries attract hundreds of thousands
of penguins in one place. Like other birds, many penguins
are nest builders. Some species dig out burrows for their
eggs, while other species use available rocks, twigs and feathers
for hatching their offspring. But penguins have one main difference
from the rest of their feathered friends; bone structure.
For birds that spend most of their time in the air, a lightweight
and sturdy bone is needed. Diving birds have strong bones,
but penguins’ bones are heavier so they don’t
have to fight the tendency to bob back to the surface. Even
though their wings are useless for venturing into the sky,
don’t feel sorry for the penguin. They spend a majority
of their time “flying” through the water sometimes
at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. A penguin’s body
is streamlined for zooming through the water - the flippers
providing the speed, the feet and tail used for steering and
braking. Not only are they great at maneuvering underwater,
some penguins species are like tiny submarines. Gentoo penguins
for example, can stay underwater for up to seven minutes and
reach depths of nearly 330 feet.
are cruising for food while they are in the water. Krill,
squid, and fish make up the bulk of their diet.
penguins look alike. Their black and white color scheme is
actually great camouflage. Their breasts are bright white
to blend in with the sky when seen from below, while their
backs and tails are black to mask their identity when seen
closely and you’ll see that’s where the similarities
ranges from the giant Emperor penguin standing nearly 4 feet
tall, to the Fairy or Little Blue penguin which grows only
to a height of around 16 inches. Marking and coloration varies
between the various penguin species as well.
There’s only one; the yellow eyed penguin.
These birds not only have yellow eyes, they also have a
yellow stripe that runs from one eye around the back of
the head to the other eye.
Eudyptula: The Little Blue or
Fairy penguin is easily identified by its size and color.
As the name implies, this species is the worlds smallest
and has pale blue or gray blue shading.
The Emperor and King penguins are not only easily
the largest species; they also can be identified by their
colorful feathers and slender beaks.
Humboldt, Galapagos, and African penguins are members of
this genus. They are the “warm” weather penguins
that have thick sturdy beaks and stripes running down their
The genus that includes Adelie, Chinstrap, and Gentoo penguins.
These are the classic black and white penguins often featured
in animated films and cartoons.
These are the crested penguins and include the Erect-crested,
Rockhopper, and Macaroni species. Their yellow plumage above
the eyes make the crested penguins stand out in a crowd.
Rock” exhibit at the Tennessee Aquarium will feature
Gentoo and Macaroni penguins.
These particular species cannot be seen at any other zoo or
aquarium in the region, and were chosen for their lively nature.
Gentoos and Macaronis also pair up well on exhibit, so the
expectation is “Penguins’ Rock” will be
a place to visit again and again to see penguin chicks hatching
and growing in the future.
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Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the
natural world. Admission is $17.95 per adult and $9.50 per
child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium
conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door
to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.95 per adult and $5.50
per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $22.95 for adults
and $13.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased
online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The
Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga,
is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving
and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people
with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other
benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.