1. True or False? All penguins live in Antarctica.

False! Only two penguin species, the emperor and Adélie penguins are found only in Antarctica. Several more penguin species are found both on Antarctica and surrounding sub-Antarctic islands. 

There are also penguins in Africa, South America, Australia, and New Zealand. One species is even technically found north of the equator, the Galápagos penguin, which lives in the Galápagos Islands that straddle the equator.

2. True or False? All penguins are black and white.

False! Most penguins do have black and white coloration, but the little penguin of Australia and New Zealand, the smallest penguin species, is blue. The black and white coloration found in almost all penguin species may have some function, but scientists are not sure exactly what it is. There are several hypotheses. 

The black feathers of penguins may be useful for absorbing heat in cold environments. The black and white color scheme may be a form of countershading. This means that the white belly of a swimming penguin helps it blend in with the light of the upper ocean and disguises it from predators from below. And its black back helps disguise it from above in the dark ocean.

3. True or False? There are 18 species of penguins.

Maybe! Depending on what characteristics penguin experts use to define a penguin species, some people recognize 18, 19, or 20 penguin species. The white-flippered penguin is a unique population of little penguins in New Zealand that may or may not be a distinct species of penguin. Even in well-known groups of animals like penguins there are still fundamental mysteries to solve, like how many species there are.

4. True or False? Penguins excel at diving which is why they cannot fly.

Probably true! Scientists have studied how much energy it takes for birds to fly and to dive in the ocean.  Several kinds of sea birds have lost the ability to fly, but excel at diving in the ocean. A 2013 study showed that when wing shape is optimized for diving, it makes it too energetically expensive for the same wing to also allow flight. This possibly explains why penguin ancestors lost their ability to fly.

April 25 is World Penguin Day!

Celebrate penguins

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