|Did You Know?
The emperor penguin is the largest of all penguins. This penguin endures the harshest weather of any species on the planet. Breeding on the sea ice during the long, dark Antarctic winter, males will receive a single egg from the female soon after laying, then incubate it alone while the female returns to sea to feed. Incubating males form large huddles called turtles for social warmth as they endure severe weather conditions where temperatures average -62 oC and winds gust to 192 km/h. The female will then return when the chick Is close to hatching.
Common: Emperor penguin.
Scientific: Aptenodytes forsteri. Aptenodytes which means ‘featherless diver’ and forsteri named in honor of J.R. Forster who accompanied Captain Cook in HMS Resolution (1772-1775) as a naturalist and was one of the earliest describers of penguins.
Marine, circumpolar, within the Antarctic zone, 66o S to 78o S latitude. Approximately 40 colonies scattered around Antarctica, most on fast ice.
Varies with locality but consisting of small pelagic fishes, euphasiid crustaceans and cephalopods.
Routinely loses up to 45% of its weight during incubation and molting fasting cycles.
No nest. Lays a single egg, which is the smallest egg in relation to body mass of any bird. Males incubate the egg (and will brood the chick after it hatches) on top of their feet. Incubation lasts 62-67 days. The chicks hatch nearly naked, with a distinct black head and two white spots around the eyes. If the chick hatches before the return of the female, the male can feed the chick an esophageal secretion sometimes referred to as “penguin milk.” Once the female returns, the male goes out to sea for up to 24 days to recover the 50% of his body weight lost during this period. The chick is fed regurgitated fish by both parents until it’s departure at about 4 months of age.
Leopard seals, killer whales, and skuas.
Conservation Challenges and Solutions:
Global warming and associated changes in sea ice extent threatens breeding locations. Human disturbance due to ecotourism and scientific bases located adjacent to colonies. Protection of food stocks from overfishing.
Population/IUCN- The World Conservation Union designation:
Least Concern population estimated at 270,000-350,000 birds.
North American Zoos & Aquariums:
Captive population in North America = 33