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A Penguin's Life Facts

A Penguin's Life

A Penguin's Life (View larger version)

  • Contrary to popular belief, emperor penguins do not mate for life. In fact, only about 15% of emperor penguins pairs reunite from one year to the next. They have the highest “divorce rate” of any penguin species – by contrast, up to 93% of Yellow-eyed penguins reunite after a breeding season.

  • Emperor penguins and king penguins are the only species that lay a single egg, though most penguin species lay a clutch consisting of two eggs.

  • Emperors’ eggs are almost five inches long, more than three inches wide and can weigh more than a pound, compared to smaller eggs that can be just under two ounces in weight. Emperors’ eggs are by far the largest eggs of any penguin.

  • Though the mortality rate for chicks and juveniles is extremely high, if an emperor penguin makes it to adulthood, its chances of survival are very good. The annual survival rate for adult emperors is about 95%.

  • In extremely cold weather, as many as ten emperor penguins may huddle together in a single square for warmth.

  • In addition to being the largest penguin, emperors are also the fastest swimmers - reaching speeds of twelve miles per hour in the water.

  • Emperor penguins are the largest living penguins, but their ancestors would dwarf today’s emperors. The fossil record suggests that some early of these early penguins may have been over five feet tall.

  • The emperor penguin’s distinctive belly flopping way of traveling is called “tobogganing.” The birds lie on their stomachs and propel themselves forward using their feet and wings, so that they resemble the sled that the gait is named after.

  • Crittercams were first deployed on emperor penguins in 2004 by the same team of filmmakers and scientists that produced this film.

  • Emperor penguins have adapted to their environment in many ways. In addition to their specialized feathers and breeding cycle, emperors have special features that help them hunt. Their tongues have backward-facing bars that help them catch and hang on to prey.

  • When emperor penguins rocket out of the water and onto the ice, they can reach heights of seven feet.

  • Though juvenile emperor penguins are fully fledged by the January after they are born, they will only be ready to return to the colony and breed in their fifth year.

  • Emperor penguins have an average lifespan of twenty years in the wild, though some may live as long as forty years. In captivity, they can live up to fifty years.

  • Though they grow up to be the largest penguin on the planet, emperor chicks are tiny when they are born – they can weigh less than half a pound.

  • Emperor chicks hatch with a thin layer of down and aren’t able to regulate their own body temperature. For the first fifty days of their lives, they are completely dependent on their parents to keep them warm in their brood pouches.

  • Emperor penguins aren’t the only animals that have become “cameramen” for National Geographic. The Crittercam team has deployed cameras on whales, seals and even lions.