Posts Tagged ‘Adelie’

Gone But Not Forgotten, The Penguins Of Silver Spring

October 7, 2015

Although the penguins of Silver Spring’s Metro station are still gone, The Penguin Post has learned that a Montgomery County official says residents can rest assured they haven’t been forgotten.

With last month’s opening of the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center, some are wondering when the 100-foot-long “Penguin Rush Hour” mural will return. The mural, which shows penguins with briefcases and newspapers rushing around a Metro station on the way to work, was installed in the late 1980s along Georgia Avenue under the Metrorail overpass.  It was originally meant as a temporary art installation, but the penguins (for obvious reasons) became so popular that Metro agreed to keep it in place.

A close-up of the "Penguins Rush Hour" mural that used to be at the Silver Spring Metro station

A close-up of the “Penguins Rush Hour” mural that used to be at the Silver Spring Metro station

It was there until 2004, when after about 15 years of being out in the elements, parts of the mural were in dire need of restoration. Montgomery County promoted a “Pennies for Penguins” fundraising campaign that raised $30,000 for the effort. Sally Callmer Thompson, the artist who painted the mural on 25 plywood panels in her Bethesda home,restored it in 2006.

But with construction on the Transit Center anticipated next door, the county didn’t want to reinstall the mural right away, according to Silver Spring Regional Center Director Reemberto Rodriguez.  The Transit Center project finally finished in September, five years after it was scheduled to open.  Now folks want to know when the penguin mural, which is sitting in storage in the Silver Spring Civic Building, will finally reappear.

On Sept. 25, someone behind the parody “SS Transit Center” Twitter account tweeted “I was PROMISED PENGUINS. Where are my penguin friends?!?” Rodriguez said the mural will be installed in the same location, though the county still must figure out the logistics of making it happen.

“We’re committed to bringing them back out,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “I can’t say whether it will be tomorrow, next week or the next month. But it’s really just a matter of going through with it and taking the steps to get them cleaned up.” Rodriguez said local arts organizations and the county’s Department of General Services, which led the Transit Center project before turning it over to Metro, will likely be involved. “I know we’ve had years to think this through,” Rodriguez said. “But we just don’t want to throw this out there. We’ll be working with other agencies and interests to make sure it happens.”

It Appears Penguins Have No Taste

February 20, 2015

PENGUINS are among the world’s most dedicated seafood eaters. But they can’t taste fish, biologists have discovered. The Penguin Post has learned that Chinese and American researchers have found that the flightless birds have only two of the five basic tastes — salty and sour — after losing the capacity to detect sweet, bitter and “umami” or savoury flavours.

Jianzhi Zhang, a genomic evolutionist at the University of Michigan, said the results were surprising. “Penguins eat fish, so you would guess they need the umami receptor genes,” he said. The discovery, revealed in the journal Current Biology, adds to the taste limitations known to bedevil some of the world’s most loved and loathed creatures. “Whales and dolphins have lost all tastes except salty,” Professor Zhang told The Australian. “Vampire bats have lost sweet and umami tastes.”

Adelie penguins and their water-going cousins can’t taste their prey’s fishy flavour, scientists have found.

Adelie penguins and their water-going cousins can’t taste their prey’s fishy flavor, scientists have found.

Birds also lack receptors for sweet flavors, even though many eat fruit and nectar. Scientists believe birds lost the T1R2 gene — which is crucial for tasting sugar — sometime during or after their evolution from meat-eating dinosaurs. The latest study found that receptors for detecting bitter and savory tastes were also missing from the genomes of Adelie and emperor penguins. Subsequent research revealed the other 15 penguin species also lacked these genes.

The researchers believe another key gene, known as TRPM5, may have effectively been frozen out of the genome of living penguins’ most recent common ancestor during an evolutionary stint in Antarctica. TRPM5 is “temperature-sensitive” and doesn’t function properly when things “get really cold”, the journal reported. While some penguins now inhabit warmer latitudes, all penguin species trace their roots to the frozen continent. But the study has raised a chicken-and-egg question, with the researchers unsure if penguins swallow fish whole because they can’t taste them, or vice-versa. Anatomical studies have found that penguins’ tongues are covered by a thick layer rather than taste buds, suggesting they’re used to catch food rather than taste it. “Their tongue structure and function suggest that penguins need no taste perception,” Professor Zhang said. “It is unclear whether these traits are a cause or a consequence of major taste loss.

Ralph The Penguin’s Need To Keep Warm Makes Him Look Cool

January 23, 2015

As we all know penguins typically don’t need help staying warm, but the Penguin Post has learned that a Humboldt penguin named Ralph who lives in the United Kingdom with a rare condition has had a special wet suit made for him for when the temperature drops.


While all penguins molt or shed their old feathers for a few weeks in the summer, Ralph, a 16-year-old Humboldt penguin at Marwell Wildlife, near Winchester in the United Kingdom, has “extreme molts” that cause bald spots on his skin, according to Ross Brown, the animal collections manager of birds at the center.

The feathers grow back only to fall out when he molts again. “Seven years ago we noticed that Ralph began molting any time of the year,” Brown says. “He goes bald and his body seems out of sync, but we don’t know why it started.” To protect Ralph from the cold and even the heat, he wears a custom rubber wet suit, just like the suits surfers wear in the ocean. Brown says that Ralph is not one to get lost in the crowd with a wet suit that says RALPH in capital letters. Ralph’s partner, Coral, can often be seen grooming Ralph’s wet suit like she would if he had feathers.

“You would think that he would be bullied or outcast because he looks different in his wet suit, but he stands his ground, he thinks he looks cool, he stands out from the crowd,” Brown said. We do too.

Prehistoric Penguin Population Roller Coaster Ride

September 18, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that a recent study of how penguin populations have changed over the last 30,000 years has shown that between the last ice age and up to around 1,000 years ago penguin populations benefitted from climate warming and retreating ice. This suggests that recent declines in penguins may be because ice is now retreating too far or too fast.


An international team, led by scientists from the Universities of Southampton and Oxford, has used a genetic technique to estimate when current genetic diversity arose in penguins and to recreate past population sizes. Looking at the 30,000 years before human activity impacted the climate, as Antarctica gradually warmed, they found that three species of penguin; Chinstrap, Adélie and southern populations of Gentoo penguins increased in numbers. In contrast, Gentoo penguins on the Falkland Islands were relatively stable, as they were not affected by large changes in ice extent.

A report of the research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead author of the paper, Gemma Clucas, from Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton comments: “Whereas we typically think of penguins as relying on ice, this research shows that during the last ice age there was probably too much ice around Antarctica to support the large populations we see today. The penguins we studied need ice-free ground to breed on and they need to be able to access the ocean to feed. The extensive ice-sheets and sea ice around Antarctica would have made it inhospitable for them.


“What is particularly interesting is that after the ice age, all of these penguin populations were climate change ‘winners’, that is to say the warming climate allowed them to expand and increase in number. However, this is not the pattern we’re seeing today. Adélie and Chinstrap penguins appear to be declining due to climate change around the Antarctic Peninsula, so they’ve become ‘losers’. Only the Gentoo penguin has continued to be a ‘winner’ and is expanding its range southward.”

Dr Tom Hart of the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, an author of the paper, continues: “We are not saying that today’s warming climate is good for penguins, in fact the current decline of some penguin species suggests that the warming climate has gone too far for most penguins.
“What we have found is that over the last 30,000 years different penguin species have responded very differently to a gradually warming world, not something we might expect given the damage current rapid warming seems to be doing to penguins’ prospects.”

To estimate changes in penguin genetic diversity, the researchers collected feathers and blood samples from 537 penguins in colonies around the Antarctic Peninsula. The scientists then sequenced a region of mitochondrial DNA that evolves relatively quickly. Using the rate of mutation of this region of DNA as a calibration point, the researchers were able to chart how the size of these populations has varied over time. The team working on the project included scientists from the British Antarctic Survey and also US scientists from Oceanites Inc, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

“During the last ice age Antarctica was encircled by 100 per cent more winter sea ice than today,” says Dr Tom Hart. “As ice retreated, these penguins had access to more breeding sites and more open ocean to feed.”

Penguin Protection Plan

June 7, 2014

About 75 percent of all penguins are threatened and the Penguin Post has learned that a campaign to double the area of protected reserves is being considered by an international commission.
Penguins are aquatic birds. They do not fly. Instead, they soar through the ocean. Penguins are especially adapted to life in the water, and therefore are affected by everything in it.

Adelie Penguin

Adelie Penguin

Penguins suffer from pollution and overfishing, which limits their food source. They are in danger from shipping traffic and oil spills. Climate change puts all penguin populations at risk, says Andrea Kavanagh, director of Global Penguin Conservation for the PEW Charitable Trusts. “Global warming is a problem because it shifts where their normal food supplies are, either farther away from them so they have to swim farther and farther away to get the food,” Kavanagh said. “And when penguins are nesting and trying to protect their chicks that’s especially a big problem for them, because the longer they have to leave their chicks the more open to starvation and predation their chicks are.”

Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguin

Two-thirds of the global penguin population is endangered, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Eight species ‒ of 18 worldwide ‒ live in Antarctica or the sub-Antarctic.  The continent is one of the world’s last wild frontiers and home to 10,000 species including seabirds, seals and whales, as well as penguins. Kavanagh says PEW and partner groups are backing a plan to create two large marine reserves, which would set aside nearly three million square kilometers in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica, more than one-third of which would be a strict no fishing area. “Marine reserves help penguins because, number one, it would move fisheries away from where the penguins have to forage for food,” Kavanagh said. “And so it would give them a little bit more security when it comes to their food source in the face of a changing climate. The other thing that it would do is that it would take a big fishery that is happening, the krill fishery, and move that farther away from their foraging grounds.” The tiny shrimp-like krill is a staple of the penguin diet. But they are being harvested for fish feed and vitamin supplements. A commission created under the Antarctic Treaty, which governs the continent, is currently negotiating the fate of the reserves.

Chinstrap Penguin

Chinstrap Penguin

The 24 member states and European Union countries must come to a consensus. Kavanagh says every nation is on board except Russia, which has been reluctant to give up fishing in the proposed area. “The last couple of years we have been working with our Russian colleagues and with all of the other member governments to try to understand their problems and see if we can work through them so that this year, this October, we can have these marine reserves firmly established,” Kavanagh said. The meeting will be held in Tasmania, where the commission is based. The reserves would double the area of ocean worldwide that is fully protected.


Vanessa Strauss, who heads a high-tech tracking and monitoring program at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds in Cape Town, says accidents there have accelerated the birds’ sharp decline. “We know that some animals oiled at sea never make it to land,” Strauss said. “So, it’s really difficult to quantify the impact of chronic oil pollution over the long term. We can not only look at the number of birds affected by oil to quantify the impact, but we do know from research that many birds do die out at sea.”



Midwest Penguin Exhibit That Needs Your Help

May 8, 2014

When you think of penguins, the first thing you probably think of is an Antarctic climate full of snow and ice. But there’s plenty of penguins that live in temperate climates: and those are the ones we usually find in our zoo’s and aquariums.  Especially, the smaller zoo’s that don’t have the resources to build indoor climate controlled exhibits that feature penguins in need of a colder environment like Emperor’s, King’s, Adelie’s and Chinstraps.

APTOPIX Britain London Zoo Count

Now the Penguin Post has learned that there’s an African penguin exhibit at the Henson Robinson Zoo in Springfield, Illinois that needs your help. The penguin home is nearly 30 years old, and the zoo staff is hoping you can help build a healthier environment for the penguins to call home.

“The fundraiser invites the youth of the community to help out the zoo’s African penguins by collecting pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and even dollars to help build them a new home,” Kim Alexander of the Henson Robinson Zoo said. “Bring the banks back to the zoo, or take the money to any Springfield-area Illinois National Bank to deposit the money for the penguins.” The zoo’s plans include demolition and rebuilding of the building that houses the penguins, as well as a renovation of the outdoor space to more closely mimic the penguins’ natural environment.

Penguin Fun Facts

April 26, 2014

In honor of World Penguin Day today—and just because they’re just so darn cute—we decided to round up some fun facts that you may not know about everyone’s favorite flightless bird.  Penguins!

1. All 17 species of penguins are naturally found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.



2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.



3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.



4. Penguins’ striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, their black backs blend into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, their white bellies are hidden against the bright surface.



5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.



6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.



7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.



8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to a thousand birds.



9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.



10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.



11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.



12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.



13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.



14. If a female Emperor Penguin’s baby dies, she will often “kidnap” an unrelated chick—but rather than raise it as her own, she soon abandons the stolen chick.



15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.



16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard for Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of the earth in 1520 when the animals were caught near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them “geese.”)



17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama’s 1497 voyage around Cape Horn makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.



18. Penguins evolved to stay in the Southern Hemisphere because there are no land predators, like wolves or polar bears, to take make quick work of the plump flightless prey.



19. Because they aren’t used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.



20. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.



21. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to Great Auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled Auks, and called them penguins.



Penguin Running Rings Around Itself

January 12, 2014

This wonderful picture of an Adelie penguin on ice who appears to be running rings around itself as one can see via his intricate tracks. The penguin looks like it’s trying to find a way across the various ice floes. But to where we do not know.  The Adelie penguin was pictured as part of US photographer John Weller’s mission to shoot the world’s last remaining pure ocean – the Ross Sea in Antarctica. He started working on the project, named The Last Ocean, with Antarctic Ecologist Dr David Ainley in 2004. Weller’s first short film on the Ross Sea was a finalist in the 2010 Blue Ocean Festival.££-The-Ross-Sea-in-Antarctica-3008504

Penguin Personality Quiz

April 27, 2013

Who can resist those snappy little personality quizzes? Somehow it feels as though some great mystery about ourselves will be revealed, though it never is.

Still, you might have been spending a lot of time wondering whether you’re an Adelie sort of penguin or a Chinstrap. The people at Pew Charitable Trusts’ environmental group seemingly have been aware of how many sleepless nights you’ve had pondering this very issue, so they came up with a Penguin Personality Quiz.

The official reason is that  Thursday was World Penguin Day — because of course every month, every week, every day, is named for something, and I’m not just talking about the sun, the moon and Norse gods.

I’m not sure how we got into all this cute naming of days in honor of one concept or another, but in any case, penguins are apparently so cute that they take up two days every year — there’s also a Penguin Awareness Day in January — leaving very little room for all the other species whose habitats are shrinking.

And the real reason is to drum up support for a far more serious test later this year: Will two dozen nations plus the European Union vote to create a marine sanctuary in the waters off  Antarctica? Russia and China are the biggest obstacles to the idea, which is supported by most of the other nations.

Into saving penguins as much as Penguin Place? Then you might want to check to see if you have an Emperor in you. Penguins apparently have pretty simple personalities; the quiz is very short.


January 20, 2012

Just in time for Penguin Awareness Day is the arrival at Penguin Place of what may be the definitive all-penguin publication of this generation.  Penguin-Pedia, a 312 page hardcover homage to penguins and everything penguins.  Written by David Salomon, a real estate developer from Dallas, TX, who spent 2 summers traveling the southern hemisphere to photograph all 17 species of penguin.  Mr. Salomon’s goal in writing Penguin-Pedia was to increase penguin interest and awareness by creating the most comprehensive penguin book to date, while also making it enjoyable to look at and easy to read.  It covers all extant species, each with its own chapter broken up into 16 different sections that focus on individual aspects of that species’ life, along with charts of specific information on each species’ diet, calendar, measurements and other numeric data.   To encourage penguin fans to go see penguins for themselves, Mr. Salomon has included a section called “Where to Find a Penguin,” which contains both a list of penguin colonies in the wild and a list of zoo and aquarium exhibits around the world. All photographs in the book are Mr. Salomon’s own, and there are even a dozen trip suggestions to locations such as South Africa , The Galapagos Islands, and The Falkland Islands. Penguin-Pedia.  What the penguin loving world has been looking for.