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Did you know?: Magellanic Telomeres

Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes and are likely the reason for aging in many animals since they shorten as the chromosome is replicated. However, recent studies show that 5 year old magellanic penguins have about the same length telomeres as a 24 year old magellanic penguin (Cerchiara et al., 2017)!

‌Cerchiara, J. A., Rosa Ana Risques, Prunkard, D., Smith, J. R., Kane, O. J., & P. Dee Boersma. (2017). Magellanic penguin telomeres do not shorten with age with increased reproductive effort, investment, and basal corticosterone. Ecology and Evolution, 7(15), 5682–5691. doi:10.1002/ece3.3128Juáres, M.,A., Santos, M., Mennucci, J. A., Coria, N., & Mariano-Jelicich, R. (2016). Diet composition and foraging habitats of Adélie and gentoo penguins in three different stages of their annual cycle. Marine Biology, 163(5), 1-10. doi:10.1007/s00227-016-2886-y‌Potter, A. (2020). The gift to win a penguin’s heart. Bbcearth.com. https://www.bbcearth.com/news/the-gift-to-win-a-penguins-heart‌Schmidt, A. (2021). Penguin Fact Sheet | Blog | Nature | PBS. Nature. https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/blog/penguin-fact-sheet/‌Winkler, D. W., Billerman, S. M., & Lovette, I. J. (2020). Penguins (Spheniscidae), version 1.0. Birds of the World. doi:10.2173/bow.spheni1.01species_shared.bow.project_name

Is it a penguin?

  • Black and white
  • Short legs, webbed feet
  • Living in cold areas
  • Flippers adapted for swimming
  • Small feathers (no feather tracts because the feathers all over their body help them stay warm and dry!)
  • Teeth in their throat to aid in fish grabbing/eating
  • Streamlined bodies for swimming
  • Little to no clear neck


Figure 1: Map of penguin living areas. Includes the Galapagos, S. America, S. Africa, South Georgia Island, Antarctica, Australia, and New Zealand. Areas tend to be cold and nests are near the ocean, on shoreline rocks, on ice, in temperate rainforest, or on steep rocky hillsides

Figure 2: Penguins are very social animals, spending much of their time near other penguins and sometimes even near other penguin species! The egg incubation period can last from 1 month to 66 days and the breeding period overall can last from 50 days to 16 months! Sexual maturity is not reached until 3-8 years after hatching and their total lifespan in the wild is up to 20 years.


Figure 3: Penguin diets tend to consist of mainly krill and fish (Juáres et al., 2016). They even have weird teeth in their throat so that their food can't escape!

Did you know?: Penguin Pebbles

Most penguins are monogamous with biparental care, but did you know penguins actually court each other? Some penguins have nests made of pebbles, so they will bring pebbles to their mates as a show of dedication to their future family and to building their home together (Potter, 2020)!



All penguin circle photos from Winkler et al., 2020