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Penguin Facts

Penguins are very interesting birds. There are several facts you may or may not know about these non-flying birds. Penguins come from the order Sphenisciformes and the family Spheniscidae. There are 17 or 18 known species in the world, with the question being whether the two Eudyptula species are actually distinct species.

Penguin Facts: Species Location
Penguins live in the southern hemisphere. Many people assume that they are found only in cold climates like the icy areas of Antarctica, but that isn’t exactly true. In reality, only a few species of penguin live in Antarctica. Three of the penguin species actually live in the tropics, reaching as far north as the Galapagos Islands. You will find most of the larger species of penguin in the colder regions, as they are able to retain heat better, and the smaller penguins can be found in the temperate and tropical climates.

Penguin Facts: Physical Characteristics
The largest species of penguin is the Emperor Penguin. The adult Emperor Penguin averages about 3 to 4 feet tall, with a weight of at least 75 pounds, often more. On the other side of the spectrum, the smallest penguin species is the Little Blue Penguin. Popularly referred to as the Fairy Penguin, the Little Blue Penguin is only a little over a foot tall and about 2 to 3 pounds.

Penguin Facts: Migration and Feeding
Penguins are actually flightless birds and they prefer to stay and move within large groups. Half of their life is spent on land and half in the ocean where they feed on mostly krill, fish, squid and other forms of sea life.

History of Penguins
Penguins are an ancient species, first appearing in the Eocene era around 40 million years ago. While many other species of bird from back then, such as Palaeeudyptes and Pachydyptes, are now extinct. Most fossils found of penguins are large, but not larger than today’s Emperor Penguin. All fossils found indicate that all penguins lived in the southern hemisphere.

The Name Penguin
The name penguin is thought by some to derive from the Welsh words pen (head) and gwyn (white), applied to the Great Auk because of its white patch between the bill and the eye, or from an island off Newfoundland known as "White Head" due to a large white rock. According to another theory, the original name was pen-wing, with reference to the rudimentary wings of both Great Auks and penguins. A third theory is that penguin comes from the Latin pinguis (fat).

Other Interesting Penguin Facts

  • The penguin is an unofficial symbol of the United States Libertarian Party.
  • The Linux mascot Tux is a penguin.
  • Penguins mate for life.

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