Saturday, January 15, 2011

Neat little blog on penguins from Jacksonville, FL

And now, in the spirit of penguin awareness

January 15, 2011

The formal party season is on hold for a few weeks, but there's a BOLO (be on the lookout) out for short, dumpy figures dressed for a black tie affair, shuffling along as if they've had one too many. Thursday is Penguin Awareness Day.

Granted, unless you visit the penguins at Tuxedo Coast in the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, the chance of running into a member of the spheniscidae family in Northeast Florida is slim to none. In September, the Associated Press reported scientists uncovered the fossilized remains of a 5-foot-tall penguin that roamed Peru about 30 million years ago. However, according to "Weird U.S." by Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman, in 1948 a number of folks reported seeing a 15-foot-tall penguin that left large tracks in the sand along Clearwater Beach. (What were they smoking?) About that same time, some boaters said they saw a really big penguin-like bird floating in the Gulf of Mexico, and an airplane pilot saw another giant penguin on the banks of the Suwannee River in north Florida.

The term penguin comes from the Welsh words "pen," meaning head and "gwyn," which means white. I'm certain they don't have penguins in Wales. About as far north as the flightless marine birds usually waddle or swim is the Galapagos Islands. On the other hand, global warming is being blamed for many strange things. For example, Northeast Florida had one of the coldest Decembers ever in 2010, and things are heating up in Washington D.C. It's preposterous to believe global warming causes cold weather, but I'm uncertain about the cause of increasing temps in Congress. Of 18 penguin species worldwide, none has ever been seen on the floor of the House, although a few could have been hiding among the tuxedo clad crowd at the 2010 Kennedy Center honors gala.

Penguins are an ancient species that goes back 40 million years. They don't fly, they swim; considering the current Transportation Security Administration preflight procedures, can you blame them? They are said to mate for life, but as an anonymous pundit pointed out: "That doesn't surprise me much, because they all look alike. It's not like they're going to meet a really new, great looking penguin someday."

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