All About Penguins

Penguins may evoke thoughts of ice and polar regions, but there are many more things that you should know about them. Penguins belong to the group of aquatic animals and live exclusively in the snow-capped areas of Antarctica. Though, you can find them in other continents like Africa, South America and Australia. This unique black and white bird is primarily famed for its entertaining padding. Though they are considered to be in the group of birds, they are unable to fly like other birds. Penguins love to spend most of their time underwater and they are capable of swimming faster than any other birds in the world. Their unique look is known as countershading that saves them in the water. Their unique body shape and swimming excellence allows them to get rid of the grasp of predators like seals although, they find it to be a bit clumsy when they are on land.

There are around 17 species of penguins, and all of them are warm-blooded. They hold blubber that shields them against extreme cold. Their down feathers and emission of oil keeps their bodies waterproof while they hold a windproof system, which heats them up. When they feel that they would like to get some heat, all of them come out of the cold in a group. In some of the tropical regions where the temperature mounts a bit, they fluff their feathers to remain cool. The mother penguins store their eggs in particular fluffy and warm region of their bodies so that they stay protected from inclement weather.

They live near seas and this obviously accounts for their preference for eating squid and krill. An interesting fact about penguins is that there is a gland in their body, which provides them with salt free drinking water, and the moment they feel thirsty, they hydrate themselves with the pullover. Penguins usually create a nest near the shore and start living together with their mate. The initial bonding between two penguins is shaped by touching each other’s neck and smacking their flippers on their backs. They remain together as long as the female penguin gives birth to the chicks, and they identify each other by their voice.

When the eggs are laid, the father penguin takes care of everything while the mother penguin goes out to arrange food for babies. The female penguin returns within the next 14 days. In the meantime, the male penguin can arrange the food quickly and store them under their warm feathers. They recognize their chicks by their unique voice.

Just like professional swimmers, penguins love to dive into the water creating brilliant splashes. They love to play. The species in the snow are mostly seen lying on their bellies so that they can move faster. They can spend almost 75% of their lives in the water including hunting. Oil spills and sea pollution near coastlines often causes life threats for these penguins. In order to provide them a favorable space to live, proper initiatives are required to be implemented.



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How do animals take baths?

Modern humans have a skewed sense of hygiene – we are under the illusion that soaps, shampoos and other cleaning agents such as detergents etc. are making us and our surroundings cleaner. While it is true that these substances do help in controlling bacteria, they also pollute the environment. Soapy water is a poisonous toxin that can cause death upon ingestion! In essence, we are polluting the planet and causing destruction of life – all under the pretext of staying clean. How ironic! Animals, on the other hand, do not have soaps, shampoos etc. but they too take hygiene pretty seriously (and they do it without damaging the environment)!

So how do animals take baths? Well, birds bathe in the dust. They move around in dust and then shake it off vigorously – getting rid of small insects and dirt in the process. They also clean their feathers with their beaks – this behaviour is known as preening. A bird’s survival can depend upon how clean its feathers are. Feathers laden with dirt are heavy and not aerodynamic – this affects the flight speed. If a bird cannot fly fast enough, it may not be able find lunch or it may end up becoming somebody else’s lunch!

Dogs, cats, horses, deer, zebras, elephants etc. also take dust baths. They roll around in sand or mud. This helps to remove dead skin, sweat and insects. Elephants use their drunks to spray water and dust onto their bodies. This helps them to stay cool and the dust acts as a protective barrier against harsh sunlight. Often, animals rub against the bark of trees to scratch an itch.

Humans too took sand/dust baths not too long ago. This practice was especially common among Bedouins who lived in the desert. However, these nomads took ‘normal’ baths with water whenever they came across rivers, streams and lakes.

Cats, tigers, lions, leopards and other felines bathe using their tongues. Their tongues have a rough surface and this helps to scrub away dirt. You may have seen domestic cats taking tongue baths – they wet their paws with their saliva and then use the paws to clean their face and ears. Often, felines chew upon a reed or eat some grass. This helps to clean their teeth and also aids in resolving digestive problems. Dogs, foxes and other felines shake, scratch and bite their own coats to remove dirt and insects.

Monkeys stay clean by grooming each other. They remove debris, lice and other insects from each other’s coats and snack on them! Hippos and water buffaloes are huge animals with limited flexibility but they get help from the aptly named oxpecker birds. Giraffes have incredibly longue tongues. They use them to clean their ears.

The Nile crocodile has a symbiotic relationship with the tiny plover birds. The crocodile lies on the shore with its mouth wide open and the birds eat the meat that is stuck in between the teeth. Plovers are brave birds – not many creatures enter the mouth of crocs and live to tell the tale.

Bees and ants are also very fastidious when it comes to bathing. Ants smear themselves with an oily substance that they produce – this prevents dust and debris from clinging to their bodies. Bees too shake off dust and pollen by beating their wings furiously. They also use their legs and proboscis to clean their eyes. To us, a single speck of dust weighs nothing but a bee can accumulate several times its bodyweight of dust and pollen if it does not clean itself at regular intervals.

Last but not the least, animals bathe under the free natural shower called rain. It is strange that many humans get quite mad when it rains and run for shelter – it is almost as if they are allergic to water. But then, humans are funny creatures!


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We will get more in depth with gorillas later but before we get into the serious stuff…. Did you know that gorillas have a sense of humor? They will actually prank humans.  Check it out!