The life cycle of gentoo penguins

Among the coastal rocks of the Antarctic, you’ll hear the patter of tiny orange feet.

Waddling across the rocks of the Antarctic Peninsula, gentoo penguins gather for the annual breeding season. They undertake this springtime ritual from the age of three onwards, usually with the same partner. Loyal and nurturing, these sea birds form lasting bonds and never venture far from the breeding ground all year round, unlike other penguin species that migrate.

The adults share the parenting duties, taking it in turns to incubate the eggs and guard the chicks while the other hunts for fish, squid and krill. They can dive as deep as 200 metres and slow their heart rate from 80-100 beats per minute (bpm) to just 20bpm to remain underwater for up to seven minutes. Their streamlined, torpedo-shaped body propels them through the water at 36 kilometres per hour – faster than any other penguin.

This unrivalled speed, combined with the fact they hunt close to the colony, means gentoo chicks are fed more frequently and it’s thought this is the reason they rear two chicks at a time rather than one like most other penguins. Here’s a look at how their parents give them the best start in life…


Click on the image for a closer look at the gentoo penguin life cycle


Feature image credit: Wikimedia commons/David Stanley

Written by the How It Works team

Discover more environmental stories in the latest issue of How It Works. It’s available from all good retailers, or you can order it online from the ImagineShop. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works, make sure you subscribe today!

You may also like:

Why do penguins only live in the Southern Hemisphere?

Why don’t penguins’ feet freeze?

How do sea otters keep warm?

You may also like...