Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Gentoo Penguin is the Fastest Penguin in the World

Gentoo Penguin Swimming
Photo Credit: Priya Venkatesh (via Wikimedia Commons)
We've all watched penguins swim at zoos and aquariums (or at least on television). Their movements seem effortless as they glide through the water, occasionally diving, and occasionally leaping above the surface for a breath of air. The fastest swimming penguin, the Gentoo Penguin, can reach speeds of 36 kilometers per hour (that's a little over 22 miles an hour for those of us who live in the USA), thanks to their streamlined bodies and strong flippers. 

The Gentoo penguin lives on the islands surrounding Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula (and with Mr. Popper of Mr. Popper's Penguins). Even though they're adapted to living in cold climates, they prefer areas without much ice. They mainly eat krill, squid and other crustaceans, but will also eat fish. 

The adult birds hunt all day long and occasionally venture out about 26 kilometers (16 miles). Because of their ability to hold their breath for seven minutes, they can dive up to 200 meters (655 feet) while chasing after something to eat. They are most vulnerable to predators such as seals, sea lions and orcas while out hunting, so they usually remain close to the shore. When they're on land, the adults only need to worry about humans who sometimes hunt them for their skin and oil. Birds of prey will sometimes dine on penguin chicks and eggs.

This species of penguin is doing well on the Antarctic Peninsula, but populations are dropping on the islands. They are now classified as a Near Threatened species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

(Apologies for the lack of updates the past few days).

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