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…

 This article was originally published in How It Works issue 89, written by Jackie Snowden

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