Archive for March, 2013

World’s Oldest Penguin

March 31, 2013

The Penguin Post has learned that penguin fossils from 10 million to 12 million years ago have been unearthed in South Africa, the oldest fossil evidence of these cuddly, tuxedoed birds in Africa. The new discovery, detailed in the March 26 issue of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, could shed light on why the number of penguin species plummeted on Africa’s coastline from four species 5 million years ago to just one today —Spheniscus demersus, or the jackass penguin, known for their donkeylike calls. Daniel Thomas, a researcher at the National Museum of Natural History, and colleague Daniel Ksepka of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center were studying rock sediments near a steel plant in Cape Town, South Africa, when they uncovered an assortment of fossils, including 17 pieces that turned out to be backbones, breastbones, legs and wings from ancient penguins.The bones suggested these ancient birds ranged from 1-to-3 feet tall (0.3 to 0.9 meters).  For comparison, Africa’s living jackass penguin, also called the black-footed penguin, stands at about 2-feet tall (0.6 meters) and weighs between 5.5 and 8.8 pounds (2.5 and 4 kilograms). The discovery pushes back the penguin fossil record in Africa by at least 5 million years. The discovery pushes back the penguin fossil record in Africa by at least 5 million years. Because the next oldest fossils from Africa date to 5 million years ago, it’s tricky to determine exactly why most penguin species disappeared from Africa. “It’s like seeing two frames of a movie,” Ksepka said in a statement. “We have a frame at five million years ago, and a frame at 10-12 million years ago, but there’s missing footage in between.” One possibility is that changing sea levels eliminated most of the penguins’ nesting sites. About 5 million years ago, sea levels were 296 feet (90 m) higher than today, and the low-lying South Africa became a patchwork of islands. Those islands provided beaches for several penguin species to create nests and rear their young while sheltering them from predators. Once the oceans fell, most of those beaches would become mainland. Africa’s remaining jackass penguins are also on the decline. Their numbers have plummeted by 80 percent, in part because humans are overfishing their staple foods, sardines and anchovies. African penguins are being bred in captivity; for instance, a successful breeding season at the New England Aquarium in 2010 ended with the birth of 11 new African penguin chicks. In addition, Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, along with South African and international partners, is working to establish breeding colonies of the African penguin closer to fish resources, to ensure successful chick-rearing, according to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

African Penguins

African Penguins

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Penguin Hatchlings In The UK

March 31, 2013

Following a successful first year, Seaview Wildlife Encounter has again been asked to help with Longleat’s penguin exhibition, which it opened last year. Seaview Wildlife Encounter director Lorraine Adams said they were anticipating another successful breeding season for their popular Humboldt penguins, with plans to send more chicks to Longleat. Last year 18 chicks made the journey from the Island to Longleat. Lorraine said: “The penguin egg assembly line has started in earnest with eight eggs laid and an estimated 12 more possible pairs successfully producing two fertile eggs each. “Hatching will start around the beginning of April and into early May. The chicks will be hand-reared in their early days at Seaview and then moved to Longleat, where its keepers will take over the responsibility of rearing these precious penguins.” Seaview Wildlife Penguin chicksSeaview Wildlife Penguin chicks

Penguin Parade Waddles Once More

March 31, 2013

The Penguin Post has learned that the Edinburgh Zoo’s most famous residents are to resume the daily penguin parade a year after it was halted while their enclosure was renovated.

The story behind the origins of the parade are as follows. In 1951, a keeper left the door to the penguin’s enclosure open by mistake and a gentoo escaped. Followed by other birds, they went for a walkabout. The escape was so popular with visitors the penguin parade has been a part of the zoo’s daily routine ever since. In early 2012, the parade stopped when the enclosure closed for renovation. Fifty-five penguins were sent to other zoos during the work, bringing the marching to a halt.  The new enclosure, called Penguins Rock, opened on March 15 and the gentoos have been practising their marching technique for the first parade on Friday. Colin Oulton from the zoo said: “We have a mixture of both old and new birds taking part in the parade, with as many as seventeen birds participating in the practice runs. The practice runs have all gone pretty smoothly; the old pros got back into it right away and the new penguins were enthusiastic to join in. “Penguins are naturally inquisitive and they enjoy the opportunity the parade gives them each day. We don’t force any penguins to take part, or encourage them with food rewards – each penguin participates in the parade purely because it wants to.”

As well as the Gentoo and Rockhopper penguins, the zoo’s five King penguins have returned in time for Easter.They took a little longer to get home as they started to moult earlier than usual. The process can be stressful, so it was decided to keep them in England until they had finished moulting. Among them is Sir Nils Olav, the mascot of the Norwegian Royal Guard. Mr Oulton said: “It was actually Sir Nils Olav holding everybody up as he was the last to moult. As the kings have only just returned to the zoo this week it is unlikely that any of them will be getting involved in the first official parade, but it won’t be too long before they are settled and ready to participate.” The penguin parade starts at 2.15pm on Friday at their enclosure.

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Do Penguins Use Daylight Saving Time?

March 23, 2013

Do penguins adhere to daylight savings time?  Do penguins even care?  Antarctica where two major penguins species reside (Emperor and Adlie) sits on every line of longitude, due to the South Pole being situated near the middle of the continent. Theoretically Antarctica would be located in all time zones, however areas south of the Antarctic Circle experience extreme day-night cycles near the times of the June and December solstices, making it difficult to determine which time zone would be appropriate. For practical purposes time zones are usually based on territorial claims, however many stations use the time of the country they are owned by or the time zone of their supply base (e.g. McMurdo Station and Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station use New Zealand time due to their main supply base being Christchurch, New Zealand).Many areas have no time zone since nothing is decided and there are not even any temporary settlements that have any clocks. They are simply labeled with UTC time.  With almost six months of daylight and six months of darkness in most of Antarctica we must conclude that daylight savings time in the southern continent does not make any sense, so there’s no “fall back, spring ahead” in Antarctica, and since penguins can’t tell time, we must conclude the Antarctic time zone phenomenon moot. At least for penguins.

Antarctic Time Zone Map

Antarctic Time Zone Map

 

From Penguin Place to Penguin Gift Shop

March 15, 2013

The name change has been on the back burners for a while since we purchased the url name penguingiftshop from the retiring former owners in late 2012.  For years Penguin-Place.com and Penguin Gift Shop had been friendly rivals in the world of all-penguin e-tailing, and in October when we received a surprise message from Penguin Gift Shop that they were thinking of retiring and offering us their domain name and inventory we jumped on it like a hungry Rockhopper.

When we were first starting on the web back in pioneering on-line days of 1997 we knew we needed a better, more penguin specific url than the name of our retail store, which was Next Stop…South Pole.  So, we pondered long and hard, searching for the cutest name we could think of, which turned out to be Penguin Place.  The inconvenient – (dash) in the middle was our 1997 webmaster’s idea.  Man, was he wrong about that dash.   For 16 years I had to repeatedly answer the question, “how come you got a dash in your url?”  Also, as the years went by we realized that the name “place” in Penguin Place was pretty much useless to search engines, and so we were schooled big time by websites that came along a decade or so later than our initial launch who by then knew how search engine optimization and specific key words work.   Although Penguin Gift Shop didn’t have as nice a website as ours, and only about half as many penguins in their inventory as compared to our, they did have a great, web friendly url for what they were offering (which was a penguin gift shop), and usually ranked higher than us in search engine results.  So, when the name was offered to us this past October we jumped at it.  Through this past holiday season and into Valentine’s Day we remained Penguin-Place.com, but as we waddled into spring and approached our 28th anniversary day we decided it was time and have now officially changed our domain name to PenguinGiftShop on have the official changeover on March 15th, our 28th anniversary. But,  if you look at the masthead on our home page we’re the Penguin Gift Shop at Penguin Place, so Penguin Place will always be with us.  We may have changed our url hoping to bump up search engine traffic a bit, but looking at the website everything is exactly the same, and we’re even keeping the name of this blog the Penguin Place Post as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages.  My kids are upset about the name change and I’m a little emotional about it, but like they say, it was a penguin offer that we couldn’t refuse.

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A 28 Year Old Penguin (Store)!

March 15, 2013

Penguins don’t usually live to age 28 in the wild, but an all-penguin store is another thing!  Yes, 28 years ago today on March 15th 1985, a generation and a head full of hair away, Next Stop…South Pole opened its pushcart doors on the 2nd floor of the old Fulton Market Building at South St. Seaport in New York.  If you need to know, the first penguin item we sold was a pack of penguin band aids to a woman who had very painful shoes.  Within a few months, we moved to a kiosk, and a year later to a permanent store on the newly opened Pier 17 at the Seaport, and from there our long waddle to 2013 continued.  Different locations, mail order catalogs, The Penguin Post Newsletter, moving to something called the internet and a name change to Penguin Place, moving from Brooklyn to Northampton, Mass and now another name change to the more search engine friendly Penguin Gift Shop.

28 years, not bad for a crazy idea of selling nothing but penguins.

Next Stop South Pole and Eric in 1985

Next Stop South Pole and Eric in 1985

Edinburgh’s Penguins Returning

March 15, 2013

The Penguin Post has learned that the Edinburgh Zoo’s new penguin enclosure is set to reopen to the public following a $900,000 revamp. The outdoor pool, called Penguins Rock, offers improved viewing areas for people visiting one of the zoo’s most popular species. For the penguins themselves, the attraction has mock sandy beaches and rocky areas, a waterfall feature, a water shoot and a diving board made out of carved rock. The development also includes a “state-of-the-art” filtration system for the 1.2m litres of water it holds.

Colin Oulton, team leader for birds at the zoo, said: “The new enclosure is a wonderful addition to our visitor attraction and perfect for our penguins. “The birds, both returning and new, have settled in very quickly to the Penguins Rock. “In fact, breeding season will shortly be here and many of our returning birds are already claiming their favorite nesting spots.” Bosses said the existing pool had served the zoo’s large colony of penguins well for more than 20 years but it was starting to need some work behind the scenes, so it made sense to combine it with a visual overhaul.

Darren McGarry, head of living collections, said the animals have been getting used to their refurbished enclosure in recent weeks. “Our penguins have been reintroduced back into their home over the last few weeks, with the 28 gentoos and 27 rockhoppers that remained at Edinburgh Zoo going in first,” he said. “It was a pleasure to see the birds start to interact with the new features of their enclosure – trying out the water slide and sticking their beaks into their new waterfall. The waterfall has actually proved to be a real hit with the gentoo’s. “Next, a week later, came gentoo birds that had been staying in Belfast and Denmark, and there was lots of calling out as birds definitely recognized old friends. “As well as old faces returning, we also welcome a mix of new one and two-year-old gentoos to Edinburgh Zoo as it is important to keep genetic diversity within populations.

“We are really looking forward to see the reactions of our visitors as they see our new enclosure and see our famous black and white birds enjoy all its new features, the mock sandy beach, the clear aqua blue water and creative bird themed interpretation, to name just a few of exciting changes. “However, it is the opportunity to feel so close to the birds due to the new lowered sightlines, and glass barriers and wood perimeters, that we particularly hope people will be thrilled with.” The new enclosure opens to the public on Thursday.

Gentoo Penguin at The Edinburgh Zoo

Gentoo Penguin at The Edinburgh Zoo

Snap A Penguin Contest

March 10, 2013

NIAGARA FALLS NY– With their comical waddles and sleek, tuxedoed looks, penguins can make inviting photo subjects. That’s why the Aquarium of Niagara is now inviting photo submissions for a contest to help celebrate the popular aquatic birds. The first-prize winner in the contest will earn a meet-and-greet with a penguin. Second prize will be an 8-by- 10-inch unframed penguin art piece from the Aquarium. Honorable mention will earn a 4 x 6 inch art piece. Winners in the contest will be showcased during a Penguin Days Celebration to be held March 23-24 at the aquarium.

Contestants are allowed to submit up to five photos of penguins – taken locally or anywhere around the world – for their entry. Deadline for the photo submissions is Wednesday. All entries will be returned. “Most of the photos submitted to us have been taken by locals who take photos here, but we did have someone once who went to the Antarctic and took pictures of other species,” recalled Dan Arcara, supervisor of exhibits for the aquarium. The aquarium boasts 10 Humboldt penguins, Arcara said. These include William, who dates back to the aquarium’s original colony settlement in 1978, as well as 7-year-old Bobbi, a female, and Chile, a male. William is at least 38 years old, but his exact age is undetermined because he was an adult when he was brought to Niagara, Arcara explained. “They generally live 15 to 18 years in the wild, and much longer in captivity,” Arcara said of the penguins. Arcara promised many more interesting penguin facts during the celebration, which he called “a very popular event” for the aquarium, typically drawing close to 2,000 visitors over the two-day span. “The Humboldt penguins are from Peru and northern Chile – from a warmer climate,” he said. “Most people think of snow and ice and cold when they think of penguins because of what we see in the media and in movies, but of the 18 known species of penguins, only a half-dozen are from the Antarctic region. The rest are from warmer climates in South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.”

In order to be part of the contest, all photographs must have the entrant’s name on the back of the photo with location and title. The contest is not open to aquarium employees or their immediate family members. Photograph submissions must be no smaller than 5 by 7 and no larger than 8 by 10 inches. Digital images may be submitted at 300 dpi or greater. Photos may be mailed to the Aquarium of Niagara, Exhibits Dept., 701 Whirlpool St., Niagara Falls, NY 14305.

Can a penguin take a bad picture?

Can a penguin take a bad picture?

Penguin Named By 1st Graders

March 8, 2013

The Penguin Post has learned that a group of children in the first grade on a field trip in Syracuse N.Y. got to name a baby — a baby Humboldt penguin, that is.  There were many “oohs” and “aahs” when the Humboldt penguin chick was revealed at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse.  The visiting first-graders decided to name her Magdelena.  The children chose the name from three options, each representing the penguin’s Latin-American origins.  Magdelena is the first Humboldt penguin chick to hatch at the upstate New York zoo this year. penguin-baby-5-11-10-9725jpg-79eb4045ed5d13c6_large

We Know Penguins Are Cool, But Not This Cool

March 8, 2013

The Penguin Post has learned that a team of European penguin researchers have found some unexpected results when they turned infrared heat sensing cameras on a group of emperor penguins they were studying.The outer layer of the birds feathers, they found, was actually colder than the surrounding air. While it goes against common sense, keeping their outermost layers ice-cold may actually help penguins stay warm deeper inside — where it counts.

Researchers from the Universite de Strasbourg in France and other institutions snapped thermal pictures of hundreds of penguins who had left the protection of the giant huddles that keep them warm, presumably because they found themselves seated next to someone who wouldn’t shut up about their startup. When they abandoned the huddles, researchers were surprised to find the penguins temperature dropped to below that of the surrounding air — which, when you’re in Antarctica, is already very, very low indeed.

The outer layers of the penguins feathers generally registered four to six degrees Celsius lower than the air around them. Since their outer layer is colder than the air around them courtesy of what researchers described as “extreme radiative cooling,” the birds can actually draw a little bit of warmth from the sub-zero environment. It’s not much warmth, say researchers, and much of it is probably lost when it passes through the skin, which is not a great conductor of heat. When you’re a penguin, though, every little bit of heat counts.

The team also found that some parts of the penguin’s body did manage to remain warm. That includes their eyes, which are surrounded by specialized rings of blood vessels that keep them warm — and result in the bird’s eyes glowing bright red in infrared photos, making it look like some strange, squat, Technicolor demon.

That's a cold penguin

That’s a cold penguin