21th February 2020: Penguin Top Trumps

by Ellie Pryor

Species Name: Empire Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)

Life span: Typically 20 years, although some individuals may live to 50 years.

Conservation Status: Near threatened.

Diet: Krill, small fish and Cephalopods. We search for prey in the open water, in either ice free regions or tidal cracks in pack ice.

Top Trumps Rating

Courage: 9 - we can remain under water for around 20 minutes searching for food and diving to depths of 535m, however it isn’t all plain sailing as the Leopard seal preys on us as soon as we enter the water!

Speed: 5 - we are an efficient swimmer, reaching speeds of 6-9mph.

Strength: 10 - we trek 50–120 km over the ice to our breeding colonies, if that’s not endurance, I don’t know what is.  

Agility: 5 - on land, we switch between walking with a wobbling gait and tobogganing which is sliding over the ice on our belly, with our feet and wing-like flippers propelling us forward!

Coolness: 10 - we are endemic to Antarctica, who wouldn’t want to live in air temperatures reaching −40°C, and wind speeds reaching 89 mph.

I am the Empire of the Penguins.

The tallest and heaviest of all the penguins.

Us males are the keepers of the realm. Once the female lays an egg, we incubate the eggs while the females return to sea for feeding, then we take it in turns caring for the chick. The cold temperatures are not a problem for us as we are able to thermoregulate (maintain core body temperature).

We are a very vocal species and enjoy a sing-along to locate each other and the nesting sites. Our calls are critical for us adults to find our chicks, we use two frequency bands independently in order to call out for them.

More importantly we are at risk from global warming which is melting the sea ice. This is due to loss of habitat and our primary food source (krill), by 2100 all 45 colonies of emperor penguins will be declining in numbers (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2014).