The cast of Mr. Popper's Penguins. Photo: Helen Murray
Penguins may take center stage in Mr. Popper's Penguins
, but how much do you really know about them? These little flightless birds have stolen the hearts of millions with their funny behavior and waddley-walk, but there's more to them besides an adorable exterior. For instance, do you know why they're a striking combination of black and white? Hint: It's NOT because they like formalwear.
Here are nine fun facts about penguins to help you get acquainted with the stars of Mr. Popper's Penguins!
Imagine this Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi towering above you!
Are You Shorter Than a Penguin?
Quick. Say Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi
five times fast! This giant penguin lived over 37 million years ago and stood 5'7", weighing a whopping 200 pounds. To put it in perspective, the average man is 5'6" and weighs about 140 pounds! Don't worry, penguins today range from the four-foot-tall Emperor Penguin to the sixteen-inch Little Blue (or Fairy) Penguin.
Fruity Pebbles... Hold the Fruit
Many penguins add something odd to their diet. They swallow pebbles in addition to their food! No one is exactly sure why they do this, but most scientists think it helps them digest food by grinding it up. Others think the added pebble-weight helps them dive deeper into the water.
Pebbles are a Penguin's Best Friend
There's another pebble practice that's quite a bit more romantic! Instead of jewelry, flowers or candy, Gentoo Penguins gift pebbles to woo their potential mates. Male Gentoo Penguins search high and low for the smoothest, most perfect rock, often fighting other males for the most desireable stones! If the female accepts the pebble from her aquatic admirer, she places it in her nest and the two become a couple. Fun fact: The penguins of Mr. Popper's Penguins
were based on this species!
Penguins or Geese?
When penguins were first caught in 1520, the explorer Antonio Pigafetta called them geese! Pigafetta was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's ship—the first to circumnavigate the globe—and spotted the penguins in Argentina.
It Takes Two
In nature, it's common for a male bird to go off on his own after an egg is laid, but that's not the case for penguins! Both male and female penguins raise their chicks for several months until they're strong enough to survive on their own.
Seawater? No Problem
Penguins consume a lot
of fish from the ocean, so they also consume a lot of seawater. To get rid of all of this extra sodium, they have a gland behind their eyes—called the spuraorbital gland—to filter out the saltwater. They simply sneeze to expel it, so the next time you see a penguin sneeze at a zoo, hold on the tissue—it's not sick!
Now You See Them, Now You Don't
One of the two species of penguins to live in a polar climate, the Adelie Penguin's black and white coloring is striking!
Their striking color combo isn't about fashion, it's about evolution! A penguin's black back blends into the dark ocean from above and their white bellies hide them against the bright surface from below!
Penguins Down Under
Stop reading. Think of a penguin's habitat! Did you think of snow? Only the Adélie and the Emperor Penguin live in the frozen Antarctic. The other 16 species live in warmer climates like in New Zealand or along the South African coast.
It's Time to Save the Day
There's no time to waste. Of the eighteen recognized penguin species, fifteen are considered under threat. Even the largest penguin species, the Emperor Penguin, is listed as "near threatened." A few of the problems facing penguins are climate change, oil spills and overfishing. Read more here
to learn about these problems and what you can do to help!
||Come and get tickets to meet Mr. Popper and his penguins in person! This toe-tapping musical is playing October 14 – 30, so do you best penguin waddle over to the New Vic today.