Where do penguins live?

Unless it is a Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus), none of the penguin species reach the northern hemisphere, since they are birds that live only in the southern hemisphere. According to the species, they can live in Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and several islands located between latitudes 45º and 58º South.

However, not any place or island seems a suitable place to live. Penguins require habitats where nature provides them with shelter, enough food, and space where they can interact and reproduce. A habitat is an area where a species lives because it allows its survival, development, and reproduction increasing its chances of survival.

Typically, the members of a species follow the path of evolution during centuries to fully adapt to the conditions of their habitats, which is why penguins have a layer of feathers that isolates them from the wind and low temperatures of their habitat. All the penguins maintain a body temperature between the 38º and the 39º C regardless the cold conditions of their habitats.

Distribution of penguins.

Adelie penguins in Antarctica, remote and cold regions.

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the species that lives in the coldest habitat of all since some Antarctic zones reach a temperature as cold as -40º or -60º C. To withstand the effects of this harsh climate, their feathers, and their abundant body fat are their best resources.

But the habitats of penguins are not always cold; some can be warm and temperate, and penguins manage to survive, as long as the environment is not arid because their body cannot endure in such environment. For example, the Galapagos penguin lives very well in these tropical islands; however, in a place where the water does not reach more than 28º C, in southern Africa, there is also a species of penguins.

The biomes that inhabit penguins are coastal and oceanic, so they are always beside the sea, where they get their food. Some species spend up to 80 percent of their life in the water or several months during the year in the ocean, and only use icebergs as places to rest.

If it is time to settle on land, they prefer islands and remote continental sites, devoid of predators, to reduce danger and have a greater chance of survival. The most southern place where they can live temporary is at Cape Royds, a Cape in the Ross Sea in Antarctica.

Natural habitat of penguins.

King Penguins on the beach.

What characteristics do penguins look to settle on a site?

-Climate and water temperature.
It depends on the species because while the penguins of the Galapagos withstand a warm climate, the Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) need low temperatures to avoid fainting; that is why, along with the emperor penguins, they are the only other species who live all their lives in Antarctica. In both cases, they developed adaptations, either to dissipate the heat or to save it according to the circumstances.

The temperature of the water should be cold or at least cool, due to the density of their feathers. In tropical areas where some species live, water is usually about 10° C colder than their body temperature, so if they overheat, they just get into the ocean.

-Availability of food.
They usually settle in places near ocean currents that carry cold, nutrient-rich water, which means that krill and other prey are also there.

Many colonies of penguins live near the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the Benguela Current, and the Humboldt Current.

– Lack of Predators.
As mentioned, they make sure to nest in areas where predators can not easily access. Due to the danger of being attacked, nesting colonies are very dense.

 

Sources:

http://www.iucnredlist.org/

http://animaldiversity.org/search/?q=penguins&feature=INFORMATION

https://seaworld.org/en/animal-info/animal-infobooks/penguin/habitat-and-distribution

http://www.worldwildlife.org/blogs/good-nature-travel/posts/where-in-the-world-you-can-see-penguins

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