Where do penguins live?
Penguins appear on some TV cartoon shows interacting with polar bears and living in igloos, but this is a misconception leading many to learn wrong facts; penguins do not live in the North Pole. All the opposite, they are naturally distributed only in the southern hemisphere, below the imaginary line that splits the Earth called the equator and south from there up to the Antarctic continent.
Many people also think that penguins only live in cold, snow-covered places, but they would be surprised to learn that they can thrive successfully in areas very close to the equator, where snow and ice are absent. In fact, penguins in the wild inhabit South America, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, the temperate and sub-Antarctic islands and, of course, part of the Antarctica.
The geographic range of the penguins, or in other words, the part of the Earth that they reach, has a great size. Most species live in latitudes between 45° and 58° south, and the largest diversity of species dwell in New Zealand, where nine species coexist. About ten live in temperate zones, while only one, the Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus), can go beyond the equator and move to the northern hemisphere, although this does not happen often.
In conclusion, the geographic range is from the Galapagos Islands to Cape Royds, a cape situated at latitude 77º33′ south where there are colonies of penguins, including the temperate and even warm areas in the middle. The largest populations are in Australia, Argentina, South Africa, Chile, New Zealand and Antarctica. Its absence in the northern hemisphere can be explained easily: polar bears, wolves, wolverines and other carnivores. Even human beings.
Indeed, in the northern part of the planet, there is a substantial number of animals that could feed on penguins if they lived there, but there is also more competition for food. Naturally, the availability of food is an essential factor in settling in a place, and for these birds, it is important to inhabit sites with an abundance of fish, krill, and squid, from which they usually feed on.
In addition to the above, as penguins do not fly they cannot make long journeys to distant areas, so they prefer to stay in places abundant in prey. Species of the genus Spheniscus that live in the northmost regions of the range are usually found on continental shelves, while king and emperor penguins often remain on floating ice sheets and lands near the ocean.
South hemisphere, home range of penguins.
Even so, they are very adventurous. Only the Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) and the Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) spend their entire life in Antarctica, as penguins usually travel by sea to other parts to reproduce and nest. However, they make sure that the water in the region is not too warm since their thick feather coating that covers their body can avoid the dissipation of the internal heat, and cause their temperature to rise dangerously.
Additionally, ocean currents play a vital role in the distribution of penguins, because they carry plankton and other foods from one place to another. Currents carry nutrients, phosphates, silicates and other substances that the small crustaceans need to survive, so where there are nutrients, there is plankton, and where the plankton is, there may be krill and as consequence penguins. Similarly, the Antarctic Convergence, where the icy waters of the ocean descend beneath the slightly warmer sub-Antarctic waters, is a region full of food that penguins benefit from it very well.
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