The Sphenisciformes of the Spheniscidae family, more commonly known as a penguin, is a flightless bird that lives almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere. Only the Galapagos penguin is seen further north but still below the equator. They use their wings to help propel them in the water, not to fly. They live in colonies and are camouflaged by the white bellies, reflecting the surface of the water, and dark backs, making them hard to see from above. Their only real enemies are the shark, the Orca and the leopard seal. They show no fear of man, in fact in most cases they are more curious than anything else. his can be good, and bad, since man seems to find a way to be the enemy of every wild creature on earth.
Though they may have been around since the dinosaurs walked the earth, man did not run into them until sometime in the 16th century. There is a great deal of confusion about how they got their name, though it seems it comes from the Dutch, using the Latin term, “pinguis” which means “fat”. The Dutch seem to have enhanced this term to “fat goose” and applied it to the penguin.
There are nearly 20 different species of penguins, the smallest living around the coastal waters of Australia and New Zealand, the “little blue penguin”. The fastest is the Gentoo, capable of reaching speeds of 22 miles per hour in the water. (Around the equator). The largest is the Emperor Penguin, tough there were penguins called the Giant penguin that grew to over 5 foot tall. They are now extinct. Other penguins include; the King, Adelie,Chinstrap, White Flippered, Magellanic, Humbolt, African, Yellow Eyed, Waitaka, Fiordland, Snares, Erect-Crested, Western Rockhopper, Eastern Rockhopper, Macaroni and Chatham.
The penguin is able to drink salt water. They are able separate out the salt and dispose of it keeping the fresh water for themselves. They stay warm not only because of their heavy feathers covering their bodies but also because they can recycle their blood, using warm blood to heat the blood that has grown cold. The process is called the “Heterothermic loophole”.
Penguins need to be respected by humans, and where possible left alone. They will do well without our interference but can be a source of joy to watch and learn from. They are loving and care for their own. We humans have started to recognize the penguin by putting them in movies such as “Happy Feet”, “Surf’s Up” the “Penguins of Madagascar” and the “March of the Penguins”. Perhaps with them, we still have a chance to be friends with another of God’s creatures here on earth.
To celebrate: Go see one of the above movies (Most are out on DVD now), plan a trip to the Antarctic or even visit Sea World.