Other | Answers

1. How cold is it in Antarctica?

In the Ross Sea area where we are studying the Adélie Penguins, the highest summer temperature is about 41oF (5oC), the lowest winter temperature is about -58oF (-50oC). The yearly average temperature is 0oF (-17oC). Staying warm is a year-long concern for these penguins.

2. Do Adélie Penguins bite?

Penguins do not have teeth like humans but will pinch hard with their beaks, which are very sharp, to protect themselves, their nests or their chicks.

3. How can you tell the females from the males?

When a mated pair of penguins are together, the male is slightly larger than his mate, particularly evident in his bill. In a crowd, though, it almost impossible to distinguish female from male penguins. There are, however, nesting-related social behaviors that males do that females don’t, and vice versa.

4. How fast can the Adélie Penguin walk?

Maximum walking speed is about 2.4 mph (3.9 kph). Their webbed feet have visible toes (claws) that help them grip the ice, like the crampons that humans use when climbing ice. Sometimes Adélie Penguins toboggan, which means the lay on their bellies and push along with their feet, aided by their flippers.

5. Where does the word “penguin” come from?

The first animal called penguin was a flightless bird of the Arctic sea, also known as the Great Auk which was similar to penguins in anatomy. The Great Auk no longer exists, having been exterminated by humans. When explorers discovered similar birds in the Antarctica region they named them the same way. The word itself originally seemed to mean 'fat one' in Spanish/Portuguese, and may come from either the Welsh 'pen gwyn' (white head), or from the Latin 'pinguis' (fat) or from a corruption of 'pin-wing' (pinioned wings).

6. What is the greatest threat to Adélie Penguins?

Their greatest threat is alteration of their ecosystem caused by human activities. The most pressing issue is depletion of large fish and whales, which causes major changes in the food web and in turn directly and indirectly affects the penguins’ ability to find food. Climate change caused by increased carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere is important, too. Warming temperatures have greatly reduced the amount of sea ice available to Adélie penguins at the northern edge of their range (western Antarctic Peninsula), and populations there are decreasing rapidly. The depletion of fish in that region has made it more difficult for the penguins to cope with climate change. Elsewhere in the Antarctic, for instance the Ross Sea, Adélie Penguins are not decreasing and, in fact, are increasing in response to loosened sea ice (easier penguin access to food). This is a hugely complex issue, and in the near future, our educational program, called Penguin Science, will provide web-based information, with lots of animated graphics and film to make it more understandable to everyone.

7. How is global climate change affecting Adélie Penguins? See above, #6.

8. How do penguins interact with people?

Penguins are not afraid of humans and if you sit still they will walk up pull at your shoe laces or clothes to try to figure out what these things are. If you move they’ll run away. If you get closer than about 10’ when they are on their territory they will ‘growl’ at you. If you get closer they’ll bite and beat you with their flippers. They do the same to other penguins.

9. On NestCheck why do the females have bands and the males don't?

We band both males and females. For the Nest Check study we chose 5 pairs with banded females for consistency. That way all banded birds are females, all un-banded ones males.

10. Do you see Emperor Penguins, and how tall are they?

Emperor penguins are still raising their chicks in a breeding colony near Cape Crozier. Later in the season they may come around to Cape Royds. Emperors are about 4 feet tall.

11. What does it mean when a mate has no band?

If a bird has no band it means we did not band it when it was a chick. Thus, we do not know it’s history, age, or where it was born. If it is paired with a banded bird we at least know its sex, and its progress in the present season, but that is all.

12. How many types of peguins are there?

There are 17 species of penguins in the world.

13. Do you have fun while researching the penguins?

Yes, working outdoors, with animals, and in Antarctica is always fun.

14. When you are in Antartica, do you see Polar Bears, Seals, Whales, lepord seals, or people with huskies? (Andrew, NY)

There are no Polar Bears or dogs in Antarctica, but we do see Weddell and Leopard Seals and whales.

15. Does the fence go all around the colony so the penguins all have to go through the same gate? Is there more than one gate? (Ferrisburgh, 1st grade, VT)

Yes the fence goes around the whole group in the colony. There is only one gate, but only a small percent of the total penguin colony live in the fenced area.

16. Have you taken samples of how much salt is in the sea water, and have you taken samples of the rocks and what kind of materials are in the rocks? (Sierra, IL)

The oceans of the world are all connected and the amount of salinity varies only slightly place to place. Near where ice is melting the water is less salty than other areas. The rocks on this island are volcanic and vary greatly in their composition in different areas.

17. How can people get close to penguins? (Kaitie, CT)

Penguins have no land predators, so are not afraid of us, but still they will not let us get too close. The best thing is to sit still and let them come up to you. They are very curious.

18. Are Skuas related to seagulls? Are Skuas seagulls?(Asiya,Illinois)

Skuas are distant cousins of seagulls.

19. What will happen if a penguin dies?(Sydney, IL)

It’s body will enter the food chain. Scavengers, either on land or in the ocean, will consume it.

20. Can the penguins break the ice? (Ms Thomas, PA)

If the ice is thin, they may break the ice and fall through.

21. Can little kids get near a penguin? (Courtney, PA)

Probably the closest you will be able to get to a penguin is in a zoo, unless you travel to the Southern Hemisphere and visit one of their habitats. Then, in the Antarctic (where they have no land predators), if you are quiet, they will come right up to you.

22. How come all the water you use to drink a plane has to bring it in, why can’t you just drink the water in the sea? (John, CA)

The sea water is too salty for us to drink and so is the snow around us because of the wind off the ocean which brings salt spray.

23. How big is ROSS island? ( Sierra, IL)

Ross Island is a triangle, about 40 miles X 40 miles X 40 miles.

24. What do the Skuas eat in the winter when there are no penguin chicks to hunt? (Emma, CT)

They catch fish from the ocean, even when there are penguin eggs and chicks to eat.

25. Do they get mad when you get close to take a picture? (Emma, CT)

Yes if you get too close they will bite and hit you with their wings which also hurts. But if you sit still they will come up to you.

26. Why don't other types of cold weather penguins live with the Adelies? (Susan, NY)

The Emperors do live in the same area as the Adelies. Other cold climate penguins, like the chinstrap and gentoo penguins, can not cope with ice, so they stay where the ocean is cold but not cold enough for ice.

27. If there were to become a tide or their worst enemy were to come where would they go , and what would they do?(Kyra, Llenzi, Brandon, IL)

Adelie penguins need ice to complete their breeding cycle, so their worst enemy is global warming which is reducing the amount of ice around Antarctica. If the ice disappears, these penguins will not be able to survive.

28. Do you think the penguins know that we are watching them? (Lexie, TX)

Yes penguins know we are watching them. They are very wary and alert. However, if you sit very still they will come up to you.

29. How warm can Antarctica get? (Kittery IL)

Right now it is just above freezing so some of the ice and snow is melting. Remember Jan is the middle of summer here, just like July in the US. However we are near the ocean which is warmer than the interior of Antarctica where it never gets above freezing. That is why there is 2 miles of ice over most the continent. It snows every year, but never melts.

30. I was looking at the photos from the penguin nests. I noticed that some of the penguins have a brown and red color on their white feathers. Is it dirt or blood? (Ayleen, VA)

Penguins lay on the ground to rest so get very dirty. The brown you see is dirt. The red is regurgitated krill which they feed their chicks and some of it gets slopped over. They also
get hit with other penguin quano if they lay too close to them. Penguins squirt their guano away from their nest and themselves in a stream that goes up to 2 ft, so any penguin in the area gets hit. That may be green, white or brown. Penguins can get very colorful when they have been hanging around the colony. You can tell the ones that have just come back from the ocean to feed, they are sparkling white and shiny black.

31. I want to know how they slide down hills? (PA)

Head first with their feet pushing from behind.

32. I am in second grade. A fourth grader at my school said that there was going to be a flood in Antarctica because of the smoke in China. We are a little worried about the penguins. (Elizabeth, CT)

Global warming is occurring and if it continues, eventually the ice in Antarctica will melt which will raise the sea level world wide. If the ice leaves Antarctica the penguins will no longer be able to survive. So far, it is mostly the smoke in America that is causing global climate change, but someday China may begin to produce more smoke. Together the US and China will cause the world to be very smoky.