Penguins are some of the most common birds in the Antarctic. They live in colonies of tens or even hundreds of thousands of birds and survive in the harshest of conditions—it is no wonder that penguins are a symbol of Antarctica. Only four of the 17 known species of penguins breed on the Antarctic continent itself: Adelie, Emperor, Chinstrap, and Gentoo Penguins. Most other species live in other regions, ranging from subantarctic to tropical.
Early Antarctic explorers initially thought penguins were feathered fish because they were flightless, and superbly adapted to their marine environment. Penguins manuever underwater with great skill, and have massive pectoral muscles to propel them at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. To withstand the harsh conditions of the Antarctic, their bodies are insulated by a thick layer of blubber and a dense network of waterproof plumage.
See footage of Antarctic penguins in the immersive dome installation, Beneath the Ice, now playing in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, free for Members or with Museum Admission. Learn more.
Image: Diorama in traveling exhibition, Race to the End of the Earth, D.Finnin