Penguins are fascinating creatures. They’ve even become media darlings in recent years. There have been multiple movies made about penguins and many people enjoy watching videos of them frolicking, diving, and living their lives. But aside from some basic information about their general habits, what do you really know about penguins? We’ve rounded up a list of facts about penguins to help you better understand these amazing creatures. If you’re curious about the science behind a penguin’s tuxedo coat or interested in finding out how fast they can swim, read on! Ready to discover 8 fascinating facts about penguins?
#1 Penguins Jump into the Air Before Diving to Swim Faster.
Have you ever seen a penguin leap into the air before diving? There’s a reason why they do that: jumping into the air before diving helps penguins swim faster once they hit the water. Why? The movement releases air bubbles from their feathers, which cuts down on drag and doubles or triples their speed underwater. And when they leap back out of the water again, some smaller penguins repeat this move by launching their bodies 6 or even 9 feet into the air!
#2 The Smallest Penguins Are Just 13 Inches Tall.
The Little Blue Penguin is the smallest penguin species. These little guys measure just 13- to 15-inches tall, and they weigh 3 pounds or less! They are sometimes referred to as little penguins or fairy penguins. In contrast, Emperor penguins stand at around 4 feet tall!
#3 The Speediest Penguins Can Exceed 20 Mph.
Gentoos are the speediest penguins. They can swim at speeds of over 20 mph. However, most penguin species swim at a more modest speed of around 4 to 7 mph. Many penguins can also dive quite deep – sometimes reaching depths of over 800 feet below the surface of the water. The deepest dive ever recorded by the Australian Antarctic Division was performed by an Emperor penguin who reached a staggering depth of 1,850 feet below the surface! What’s more, the longest known penguin dives have lasted up to 22 minutes long – a testament to their impressive lung capacity.
#4 Penguins Have Natural Camouflage.
Penguins’ black-and-white coloring isn’t just there to make them look like they’re wearing little tuxedos – it serves an important purpose. Their black backs blend in with the ocean water when viewed from above, and their white bellies blend in with the bright surface when viewed from below. This helps to disguise them from predators like leopard seals, and also makes it easier for penguins to catch their own prey, such as fish, squid, crabs, and krill.
#5 Penguins Don’t Have Teeth.
Penguins don’t have any teeth. Instead, they have backward-facing fleshy spines that line the inside of their mouths. These spines help guide their fishy meals down their throats. Penguins are carnivores – they feed on fish, squid, crabs, krill, and other seafood. In the summer months, a medium-sized penguin eats about 2 pounds of food each day, but during the winter months, that same penguin will consume just 1/3 of that amount.
#6 Penguins Can “Drink” Seawater.
Penguins sip meltwater from pools and streams to quench their thirst. However, their hunting style and diet means that they often end up ingesting a lot of seawater. To combat this issue, penguins have a supraorbital gland (located just above the eye) that removes salt from their bloodstream. The extra sodium is then excreted through the bill or by sneezing.
#7 Penguins Experience a “Catastrophic Molt” Once a Year.
Once a year, penguins experience what is known as a “catastrophic molt.” They lose their feathers all at once, and they are unable to swim or fish until the feathers are regrown. Typically, it takes 2 to 3 weeks for a penguin’s new feathers to come in. These little creatures cleverly plan ahead by fattening themselves up beforehand in order to survive the molting period.
#8 Some Penguin Species Mate for Life.
Some penguins mate for life. Gentoos, Rockhoppers, and Chinstraps are known for remaining monogamous, and Adelie females are able to locate their mates within minutes of arriving at the colony each year! Penguin couples use unique calls to find one another on crowded breeding grounds. Once the breeding season begins, male Emperor penguins will incubate eggs on their feet by using a loose fold of skin to keep the eggs warm. They will stay that way until the eggs hatch a few months later. Other penguins build pebble nests or burrows to incubate their eggs and shelter their newborn chicks.
Want to learn even more fascinating facts about penguins? Check out this video!