Friday, October 31, 2014

Penguins of the Day

Peck on the Cheek, King Penguin 

Peck on the Cheek, King Penguin by renita lestari

Getting All the Gossip, King Penguin

Getting All the Gossip, King Penguin  by renita lestari

Rare Fiordland penguins delight first walkers of the season

A waddle of Fiordland Crested Penguins spotted by staff

Media Release from Hollyford Track Guided Walks
November 30 2014

Rare Fiordland penguins delight first walkers of the season on Hollyford Track
Hollyford Track Guided Walks, owned and operated by Ngāi Tahu Tourism, has opened for the summer season and early walkers on the track have been rewarded with regular sightings of the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin.

The first walkers took to the track for the company’s Three Day Guided Wilderness Experience walk in mid-October and reports from on-site staff say the penguins – also known as Tawaki - are regular visitors to the valley at the mouth of the Hollyford River, near the lodge at Martins Bay.

Hollyford Track Guided Walks operations manager Travis Donoghue, said the “cute creatures” were always a favourite moment with walkers who happen upon the ‘waddle’ regularly. “There’ve been frequent sightings of them in the last few days and our guests have really enjoyed getting so close to these wonderful birds which are unique to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fiordland National Park and surrounding areas of South and West New Zealand. To see them in their natural habitat is a truly special experience and once-in-a-lifetime chance.The current population is between just 2500 and 3000 breeding pairs. “A sighting will always be synonymous with Fiordland and New Zealand so our walkers are certainly having a trip to remember,” said Mr Donoghue.

Due to the migratory patterns of the Fiordland Crested Penguin it’s expected they’ll be around the Hollyford region until early December. The dedicated team have been on-site at the lodge training and getting ready for the busy summer with all indications pointing to another “stellar hiking season”.
The walking season lasts until late April and the company already has a number of walks fully booked, especially during the busier peak summer times. “As always we suggest people book early. With only 16 people in each trip we do book-up well in advance.”

The walk includes low-altitude hiking suitable for anyone of reasonable fitness, native wildlife encounters, wilderness jet-boating, historical sites and finishes with a scenic helicopter flight to Milford Sound.

Further information on all Hollyford Track Guided Walks is available at


Penguin trips over rock in front of tourists in Argentina

A funny video has emerged of a penguin tripping over a rock in front of a crowd of tourists.
The footage - captured last month in Patagonia, Argentina - shows a Magellanic penguin faceplanting over the rock before picking itself up and continuing its journey.
According to the filmer around 500,000 Magellanic penguins visit the reserve of Punta Tombo every year which is the largest nesting site in South America.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Penguin parents practice by incubating egg-shaped stone

A pair of penguins are preparing for parenthood by sitting on an egg-shaped stone at Dudley Zoo.
Keepers have discovered the pair taking it in turns to incubate the rock.
A pair of penguins are preparing for parenthood by sitting on an egg-shaped stone at Dudley Zoo.
A pair of penguins are preparing for parenthood by sitting on an egg-shaped stone at Dudley Zoo. Credit: Dudley Zoo
Humboldt penguins pair for life and will lay eggs in the same nesting boxes year-on-year, with both the male and female taking it in turns to incubate eggs for between 40 – 42 days, as well as sharing food-finding duties when the chick is born.
Gentoo penguins are the species normally associated with rocks, as they will pass stones to one another as a token of their affection, but I have seen some other Humboldts do this before as well as other bird species such as owls; it’s as if they are practising for the real event.”
– DZG Curator, Matt Lewis

The blessing of the baby penguin

A four-month-old Humboldt penguin named Kaya is blessed by a Catholic...
A four-month-old Humboldt penguin named Kaya is blessed by a Catholic...
A four-month-old Humboldt penguin named Kaya is blessed by a Catholic...
A four-month-old Humboldt penguin named Kaya is blessed by a Catholic...
October 29, 2014
MANILA — Roman Catholic priest Jacob Gomes blessed a four-month-old Humboldt penguin before it took its first swim at the Manila Ocean Park in the Philippines today (Oct 29). The park launched its baby penguin attraction today and announced the winner of a contest to choose the baby’s name, Kaya, meaning competence or ability in Tagalog.

Before the penguin’s first swim, it was placed in one side of a pool, separated from its penguin parents by a net. During the blessing, the priest stressed the importance of environmental conservation and the need for people to protect all species of marine life, which are “a creation of God”. Kaya was born July 8 and is the first penguin to be born in the country. Its gender is not yet known.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Penguin of the Day (Hoiho)

Yellow Eyed Penguin by ribbonworm

The world’s first test-tube penguin – and she’s called, er, 184

Pictured: The world's first test-tube penguin - - and she's called, er, 184
Penguin 184’s success could help scientists restore threatened penguin populations in future (Picture: SeaWorld)
The world’s first ever test-tube penguin has been pictured for the first time.

The chick, which has the unglamorous title of ‘184’ until it is given a name, was hatched at SeaWorld in San Diego 12 weeks ago, though the first images of her were only made public this week.

184, who is the first penguin to be born via artificial insemination, represents a huge step for researchers in helping to diversify captive penguin populations and aid their studies.

‘The goal of our research center is to study a species’ reproductive biology, to learn as much as we can about that and use this to not only monitor the health of not only our zoological populations but wild populations as well,’ said Scientific Director Dr. Justine O’Brien, of SeaWorld’s reproductive centre.

The baby Magellanic penguin has already transitioned from hand-feeding to eating fish on her own, and has integrated with the natural-born penguin population, biologists say.

Dr O’Brien believes the success of 184 could help scientists’ future efforts to increase other threatened penguin populations, with a number of species affected by oil spills, diminished fish supplies and climate change.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Study connects penguin chick weights to local weather conditions

10 hours ago
University of Delaware study connects penguin chick weights to local weather conditions
University of Delaware researchers have reported a connection between local weather conditions and the weight of Adélie penguin chicks in Antarctica. Credit: Megan Cimino/University of Delaware
Adélie penguins are an indigenous species of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), one of the most rapidly warming areas on Earth. Since 1950, the average annual temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula has increased 2 degrees Celsius on average, and 6 degrees Celsius during winter.
As the WAP climate warms, it is changing from a dry, polar system to a warmer, sub-polar system with more rain. 
University of Delaware oceanographers recently reported a connection between local weather conditions and the weight of Adélie penguin chicks in an article in Marine Ecology Progress Series, a top marine ecology journal.

Penguin chick weight at the time of fledgling, when they leave the nest, is considered an important indicator of food availability, parental care and environmental conditions at a penguin colony. A higher chick mass provides the chick a better likelihood of surviving and propagating future generations.

In the study, Megan Cimino, a UD doctoral student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and the paper's lead author, compared data from 1987 to 2011 related to the penguin's diet, the weather and the large-scale climate indices to see if they could correlate year-to-year penguin chick weight with a particular factor. She also evaluated samples from the penguin's diet to determine what they were eating.

"The ability of a penguin species to progress is dependent on the adults' investment in their chicks," said Matthew Oliver, an associate professor of marine science and policy and principal investigator on the project. "Penguins do a remarkable job of finding food for their chicks in the ocean's dynamic environment, so we thought that the type and size distribution of food sources would impact chick weight."

Impact of weather and climate

Instead, the study revealed that weather and overall atmospheric climate seemed to affect weights the most. In particular, —including high winds, cold temperatures and precipitation, such as rain or humidity—had the largest impact on penguin chick weight variations over time. For example, westerly wind and air temperature can cause a 7-ounce change in average chick weights, as compared to 3.5-ounce change caused by wind speed and precipitation. A 7-ounce decrease in chick weight could be the difference between a surviving and non-surviving chick.
University of Delaware study connects penguin chick weights to local weather conditions
A 7-ounce decrease in chick weight could be the difference between a surviving and non-surviving penguin chick. Credit: Megan Cimino/University of Delaware
Cimino explained that while penguins do build nests, they have no way of building nests that protect the chicks from the elements. This leaves penguin chicks unprotected and exposed while adult penguins are away from the nest. Precipitation, while not considered a key variable, can cause chick plumage to become damp or wet and is generally a major factor in egg and chick mortality and slow growth.

"It's likely that weather variations are increasing the chicks' thermoregulatory costs; and when they are cold and wet, they have to expend more energy to keep warm," she said.

The wind can also affect the marine environment, she continued, mixing up the water column and dispersing the krill, a penguin's main source of food, which may cause parent penguins to remain at sea for longer periods of time and cause chicks to be fed less frequently.

"This is an interesting study, because it calls into question what happens to an ecosystem when you change climate quickly: Is it just large-scale averages that change the ecosystem or do particular daily interactions also contribute to the change," Oliver said.

Research team

Other co-authors on the paper include William Fraser and Donna Patterson-Fraser, from the Polar Oceans Research Group, and Vincent Saba, from NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. Fraser and Patterson have been collecting data on Adélie penguins since the late 1970s, creating a strong fundamental data set that includes statistics collected over decades, even before rapid warming was observed.

By correlating the relevant environmental variables through analysis of data from sources such as space, weather stations, etc., the researchers were able to scientifically validate a potential cause for chick weight variation over time. Using big data analyses to statistically sift through the possible causes allowed the researchers to take a forensic approach to understanding the problem.

"Climate change strikes at the weak point in the cycle or life history for each different species," Oliver said. "The Adélie penguin is incredibly adaptive to the marine environment, but climate ends up wreaking havoc on the terrestrial element of the species' history, an important lesson for thinking about how we, even other species, are connected to the environment."

Cimino will return to Antarctica next month to begin working with physical oceanographers from University of Alaska and Rutgers, through funding from the National Science Foundation. Using robotics, she will investigate what parent penguins actually do in the ocean in order to gain a broader perspective on how the penguins use the . In particular, she hopes to explore other possible contributing factors to chick weight variation such as parental foraging components that were not part of this study.

"It's important for us to understand what's going on, especially as conditions are getting warmer and wetter, because it may give us an idea of what may happen to these in the future," Cimino said.

Explore further: Rescued 'abandoned' penguin chicks survival similar to colony rates
Journal reference: Marine Ecology Progress Series search and more info website
Provided by University of Delaware search and more info

source website

Penguin of the Day

A Rockhopper goes Tobogganing 

A Rockhopper goes Tobogganing by Sandy MacLennan

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Penguins of the Day

Diving & hopping Adelie Penguins in Antarctica

Secret sex life of pervert penguins was 'censored' from South Pole explorer's public report

  • By Ian Robson, Gareth Roberts

Antarctic pioneer stumbled upon gangs of single penguins that indulged in a string of stomach-turning sex acts that were kept under wraps until now

George Murray Levick The secret life of sex-mad "hooligan" penguins rampaging around the South Pole was kept under wraps by a stunned Antarctic explorer.

George Murray Levick endured the coldest temperatures on earth, life-threatening blizzards, survived by eating blubber and was part of the fatal 1911 Terra Nova expedition.

While Levick – a surgeon, zoologist and photographer – survived the mission, Captain Scott and two others perished in their tent on the Ross Ice Shelf.

But of all the things that could have left Levick mentally scarred - it was the debauched behaviour of the region's resident penguins that turned his stomach the most, reports the Evening Chronicle

During his time with the Scott expedition, Levick undertook a detailed study of an Adelie penguin colony – and was so shocked by what he saw that his findings were censored.
Getty Penguins mate, at Chile's military base Presidente Eduardo Frei, in the King George island, in Antarctica
Do you come here often? A male penguin makes his move in the super cool surroundings of the Antarctica
Levick blasted the “hooligan” behaviour he witnessed – which included male penguins:
  • Having sex with dead females
  • Abusing and bullying chicks
  • Rape
  • Males having sex with males,          
Levick wrote his eye-opening observations in Greek, and printed just 100 copies of his penguin porn research, Sexual Habits of the Adélie Penguin, for limited use by scientists.

His X-rated paper was excluded from the official Scott report.

Levick had a particular hatred for the single male penguins he watched.

The scientist with the 1910-13 Scott Antarctic Expedition wrote: “Half a dozen or more hang about the outskirts of the knolls, whose inhabitants they annoy by their constant acts of depravity.”

Levick's work was largely lost to science but later explorers confirmed his findings.

As for Levick himself, he returned from penguins' answer to Magaluf to serve in the Royal Navy during the First World War. He died in 1956.


This Week's Pencognito!

Please be sure to visit Jen and all the pengies by clicking this link!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why Little Penguins At Australia's Phillip Island Sport Stylish Sweaters

By Meera Dolasia on October 24, 2014


If you happen to visit the Penguin Foundation at Australia's Phillip Island Nature Park, you may encounter an unusual sight - Little penguins waddling around in brightly colored turtleneck sweaters. Unfortunately, it is not because the flightless birds are trying to establish a new fashion trend, but because they are victims of oil spills. Confused? Read on!

According to the Foundation that rescues and rehabilitates the birds, the hand-knitted sweaters are crucial in saving the lives of the helpless creatures when they get affected by oil spills. Besides the danger of ingesting some, penguins exposed to large amounts of oil are also more likely to die of starvation and exposure. That's because the oil separates and mats their feathers, allowing water to seep in. This makes the birds cold and heavy, and less efficient at catching prey.

The good news is that if the birds are lucky enough to be rescued and taken to centers like the one run by the Penguin Foundation, they can be cleaned and released back to the wild, in no time at all. However, there is still the danger of them ingesting some of the poisonous substance before the cleaning process has been completed. Given that a patch of oil the size of a thumbnail is enough to kill the little bird, conservationists had to think of an innovative solution.

In 1998, a volunteer came up with the idea of attiring the Little penguins with the sweaters and it worked like a charm. The Foundation officials say that during the last major oil disaster near the area in 2001, the sweaters helped save 96% of the 453 contaminated penguins.


Over the years, the researchers have fine-tuned the knitting pattern to make sure that the wool does not damage the penguin's feathers and that their flippers or beaks do not get entangled. The sweaters are knitted with 100% wool, which has a unique ability to act as a breathable insulator. This helps keep the tiny penguin bodies at the perfect "Goldilocks temperature" - neither too hot, nor too cold! The Penguin Foundation is not the only one using this method to save the birds. The Tasmanian Conservation Project has also been saving their oil affected Little penguins using these adorable "wooly jumpers."

Of course, these flightless birds are not the only victims of careless oil spills. According to the Penguin Foundation, over 100,000 birds of all kinds are contaminated each year. Unfortunately, not all are as lucky as the Little penguins that end up at this sanctuary.


Also known as "blue" or "fairy" penguins, Little penguins are the smallest of the 17 species of the birds that are endemic to the southern hemisphere (Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, sub-Antarctic islands, South America and Africa). The diminutive animals that measure a mere 33cm (13in) tall and weigh just one kilogram (2.2 lbs), used to waddle around southern Australia and New Zealand in large numbers. However, over the years their numbers have declined drastically, thanks to predators like feral and domestic cats, as well as the spread of human settlement. As a result, there are now only about a million of the cute birds left in the colonies that are scattered around the region's various small islands and some isolated coastal locations.

Story source 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hand-rearing abandoned African penguins could help save endangered species

BY Ashira Morris  October 24, 2014 
Group of African Penguins near Boulders Beach, South Africa. Photo by courtesy of Penguin Posse.

Abandoned African penguin chicks are easy to spot. Their flippers are too long for their bodies. Their chest bones are visible through their newborn plumage. They haven’t been fed by their parents for weeks because the adult birds are molting and unable to hunt in the ocean.

Map of Western Cape, South Africa. Black circles depict the location of main African penguin breeding colonies. Group of African Penguins (Spheniscus demersus) walking down a ramp near Boulders Beach, South Africa.While adult penguins can survive 21 days without food, baby chicks cannot. Under normal conditions, the chicks would be out of their nests and able to survive the fast. But sparse fish populations around the South African shore limit chick’s growth and keep them nesting when adults reach the critical point when they must molt.

Map of Western Cape, South Africa. Black circles depict the location of main African penguin breeding colonies. Chart by Richard B. Sherley, Lauren J. Waller, Venessa Strauss, Deon Geldenhuys, Les G. Underhill and Nola J. Parsons.

In response, researchers from the University of Cape Town head-reared hundreds of malnourished chicks from penguin colonies Dyer Island, Robben Island and Stony Point at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds in Cape Town. The researchers admitted over 800 penguins in 2006 and nearly 500 in 2007. “Often, the abandoned chicks we’re bringing up look quite sad for themselves,” lead researcher Richard Sherley said. Most of the chicks were underweight for their age; researchers fed them a formula of liquidized fish and vitamins.

The penguins were marked with flipped bands then released back into the wild after an average month and a half of human care. The hand-raised chicks were just as likely to survive as their naturally-raised counterparts.

This success is promising for other seabird species facing dwindling populations. So long as the birds don’t attach to their surrogate human parents and can cope with living in captivity, humans raising baby birds could be a solution.

African penguin populations have shrunk by more than 70 percent since 2011, and the species has been classified as endangered since 2012. “Hand-rearing of African penguin chicks is a valuable conservation tool in light of the declining population,” the researchers conclude in the full study, “Hand-Rearing, Release and Survival of African Penguin Chicks Abandoned Before Independence by Moulting Parents,” which was published Tuesday.

In the South African ecosystem, the baby penguins’ problems can be traced back to fish populations. Sardines and anchovies are African penguins’ main food source. Between rising sea temperatures and overfishing, especially of sardines, there aren’t as many fish to feast on as there were in previous decades.

Less fish means smaller or less frequent meals for the fledgling penguins. As a result, the baby birds are growing slower and are still chicks when their parents begin to molt. Unlike some birds, who shed a few feathers at a time, penguins must replace all their feathers at once. Since they don’t have waterproof feathers while molting, they stay on land and don’t hunt for the entire process.
Hand-rearing the chicks could help conserve the species in the short term, but the current colonies can only support so many penguins. “We’re putting them back out into the colonies from where they came,” he said. “We’re trying to slow down the decline of colonies that are disappearing very rapidly.”

Sherley is curious how the human-raised penguins would fare if they were released as pioneers of new colonies on different parts of the South African shore.

The South African government is also experimenting with fishing regulations. The now-defunct South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism closed fishing around two pairs of islands. The penguin chicks around St. Croix and Bird islands were , and the area will soon be off-limits for fishing permanently. However, data for Robben and Dassen Island were inconclusive, and there is ongoing debate about whether to allow or halt fishing around the second pair of islands.


Penguin supporters get their spring coats

Supporters to educate viewers ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY

Last updated  25/10/2014

Penguin wardens
HI-VIS VESTS: Little blue penguin support group members in their new vests, which they wear when responding to questions from penguin viewers on the beach. Greg Adams and his mother Alwyn (right) and Margaret McPherson (centre).

Fluorescent vests sewn by penguin fans are designed to help keep the creatures safe on Timaru's coastline.

Little blue penguin support group member Margaret McPherson designed the bright green vests for members to wear while on rostered duty on the beach at dusk. "It's so people know who to talk to or ask questions," McPherson said.

The $160 cost of material for the 21 vests was sponsored by a group member's business and McPherson got help with sewing from friends and fellow group member Alwyn Adams.

Made to fit all shapes and sizes, the vests have a reflective strip along the back and a pocket in the front to hold information pamphlets which, when printed, the members will distribute to penguin viewers.

Group member Greg Adams said visitors to the district were really impressed that viewing the penguins was free and he hoped they could keep it that way.

Educating the public helped to "stop idiots" disturbing the penguins, he said.

It was also a way of sharing information. Recently a group member was made aware of where some chicks were, thanks to an eagle-eyed member of the public.

Eggs are laid between August and December.


Penguins of the Day

Happy Penguin by Makki-Summer

Penguin's morningby Makki-Summer

African Penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa

4th penguin chick born at Little Rock Zoo

Photo courtesy Little Rock Zoo
Photo courtesy Little Rock Zoo
Posted: Oct 23, 2014
 The Little Rock Zoo has announced its fourth African penguin chick successfully hatched on September 11.

Unlike the zoo's last three penguin chicks, this latest one was hatched by penguins Mary Beth and Roy and foster parented by penguins Skipper and Eze. Skipper and Eze are parents to the Zoo's last three chicks.

The new penguin, a male, weighed only 2.3 ounces when born. He now weighs six pounds and is growing strong. Penguin chicks grow quickly when they are first hatched and if they are healthy.

The chick will not be on exhibit until it is old enough to swim on its own. In the meantime, he enjoys lounging on the steps of the Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe exhibit.

According to the zoo, the birth of this penguin is a significant achievement in conservation because of the genetic makeup of penguins Mary Beth and Roy. Mary Beth and Roy were recommended to breed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP is a conservation program of AZA that aims to protect and conserve endangered and threatened species.

The African penguin is an endangered species whose population has declined more than 95 percent since preindustrial times. The African penguin is threatened by oil spills, overfishing, and climate change.

Penguin Hijinks

Penguins Love to Take Pictures

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Penguins of the Day

Ice Islands Penguins
 Southern Rockhopper Penguins by  Ricky Hayden

Pitbull - Celebrate (from the Original Motion Picture Penguins of Madagascar)

One Special Day for One Old Penguin

Russell Jones
Gulf World threw a birthday party for one of their oldest residents. Fat Boy is   turning 31 years-old.  Staff wanted to honor this achievement because its so rare for African penguins to live this long.

Stephanie Nagle the Education Coordinator at Gulf World was on hand for the celebration.

He is a little bit older so he is calmer than the others. He is the only male in our habitat, so the other females are a little bit more active than he is, but he still very healthy and we hope to celebrate many more birthdays in the future, says Nagle.

Gulf World is home to many different aquatic animals including penguins.  Fat Boy is an African Black-Footed Penguin.
This species is on the endangered list, so staff used today as
an opportunity to educate the public on how to help the animal.

According to Gulf World trainers, picking up liter on the beach to reducing the amount of water you use everyday are ways to help Fat Boy and his family live on forever.

One admirer loves the penguin for all kinds of reasons. 
"I like how they can swim and dive. They are cool animals but just weird little birds, says Bennett Schneider.


Tucson boy's wish to 'hug a penguin' comes true

By Rikki Mitchell. CREATED Oct 19, 2014
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - All Omar Casas Varela could think about two weeks ago was what a hug from a penguin might feel like. "I think they're going to be so soft," he said at a farewell party hosted by Make-a-Wish Arizona. 
The young boy has a life-threatening illness that requires him to receive a blood transfusion every two weeks, but his family says the one thing that gets him through all those doctor appointments is his love for these aquatic animals.

"He likes that the penguins are like a family like us," said Omar's mother Vanessa Molina. Make-a-Wish Arizona volunteers said Omar's wish to "hug a penguin" was unusual, but they knew they had to make it happen. So when they scheduled the family's vacation, they left room for two whole days behind the scenes at Seaworld in Orlando, Florida. Watch the video above to see Omar's wish come true!


Now you can mop your floor with a penguin??

P-P-Pick up the dirt with this penguin multi-surface cleaner
The penguin floor cleaner cover helps your mop glide across surfaces (Picture: Felissimo)
Occasionally, even the most slovenly types are forced to wipe down the odd surface *sad face*.

And now you can put a bit of sparkle into the dullest of chores with the penguin multi-surface floor cleaning cover.

You may not have ever realised you needed it, but seeing this little stuffed penguin gliding across your floors as you clean may just brighten up the most menial of tasks.

The cuddly cover can be used with virtually any old mop – the hole in its torso lets you slide it over the mop handle. Then, it will glide over your tiled/wooden floors with ease, like a penguin on ice.
penguin pic 2
What the world was missing (Picture: Felissimo)
The cover is sold by Japanese online shop Felissimo for around £20 plus postage.
When you’re not mopping the floors (which, yeah, is basically all the time), or don’t actually own a mop – because Flash wipes – it also doubles up as a tissue box.
penguin pic 4
Or just put your tissues in its stomach-lining. Good (Picture: Felissimo)
Most pointless invention ever? Very possibly. But, for some reason, we still sort of want one.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Penguins of the Day

Snowy Chinstrap Penguin by pinguino

Snow on My Flippers by pinguino


Penguins dressed for success

Photo by Lloyd Spencer Davis
Photo by Lloyd Spencer Davis

Penguins might be regarded as cute, comedic characters because of the bumbling manner in which they walk, but these birds have been shaped not by the air or land, but by the sea. ''Even Ferrari can't design a shape as efficient,'' Prof Lloyd Spencer Davis says. Any creature that has to spend a lot of time moving through a dense medium such as water is likely to have been shaped by evolution into a spindle. Such a shape reduces drag.

''A shark, a seal, a penguin - there might be slight differences to their form - but in essence they are all battling the same problem: drag,'' Davis writes in Professor Penguin. ''They can have coefficients of drag that are better than we can design with all our computers ... but as a consequence of reducing the drag, they have these short legs. Natural history documentaries often mock penguins because of the way they move on land, yet you'd never say about (champion sprinter Usain Bolt), 'well, he sleeps in a funny position'.''

Two of the most recognisable characteristics of penguins - the way they walk and the way they dress - are a consequence of their evolution to become diving birds that hunt in open oceans. ''Penguins walk upright because their legs have been much reduced in an effort to reduce drag. In essence, penguins have such short legs that they end up walking upright on what are essentially their anklebones. The waddling gait of penguins is not the best means of moving on land. It is just one of the compromises that penguins have had to accept on land in order to rule beneath the waves.''

Davis points out that penguins' coloration, too, is more dictated by the requirements of life in water than by those of life on the land. ''They are open-ocean predators, feeding on krill, fish and squid. They are also open-ocean prey, being fed on by the likes of seals, and sometimes the odd whale or shark, too, if some of the stories are to be believed. In the ocean there is nowhere to hide, either for sneaking up on prey or for evading predators. Camouflage comes in the form of the two-tone suit worn by most oceanic dwellers: dark on top to blend in with the depths when seen from above, light on the bottom to blend in with the surface when seen from below. It is the dominant fashion of the water-obsessed: barracuda, tuna, great white sharks, killer whales, salt-water crocodiles.''
In short, Davis notes, penguins may look like they are wearing tuxedos but, really, they go to the same tailors as all other open-ocean predators.