African penguins.
African penguins.

African Penguins

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African Penguins really are from Africa. Contrary to the popular belief not all penguins live on Antarctica. Nor are they confined to freezing cold environments.

African penguins.

African penguins (Spheniscus demersus), Szeged Zoo.

Penguins cannot fly in the air but they make up for it by flying effortlessly under water. They don’t just swim but dive deep down, really masters of their realm — until someone higher up the food chain such as a seal shows up. Just like seals, penguins have a lot of myoglobin in their muscles to help them store oxygen so that they can use it while they cannot breath on the account of being deep under water. Unlike the mammalian lungs of seals the avian lungs of penguins don’t collapse and have some air in them while the penguin is diving. Thus penguins, like cetaceans, but unlike seals, have to be careful how they avoid decompression sickness.

African penguin.

Like most penguins, African penguins lay eggs and rear their young in colonies. Since African penguins live in warmer climates they at least don’t have to incubate their eggs while living on top of ice the way other penguin species such as emperor penguins have to. African penguins build a nest of some sort in guano and sand. Both parent incubate the eggs and both feed the chicks.

African penguins.

African penguins (Spheniscus demersus), Toronto Zoo.

Zoos around the world love to exhibit African penguins, perhaps because people find their antics amusing.

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Last updated: February 23, 2015

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