It’s Jan. 20, 2016, which can only mean one thing: Penguin Awareness Day!
Today is the day we appreciate our little tuxedo-clad friends and educate ourselves on why they’re (not just so freaking cute but also) important.
Without further ado…
1. Penguins are pretty incredible.
Let me tell you why.
2. There are so many different kinds of penguins — 17 to 19 species, to be more precise.
These little ones are Adélie penguins.
3. Of all these different species, the emperor penguin is the biggest…
…just as its name implies.
Here’s a colony of emperors who appear to be completely over an elephant seal that won’t shut up.
4. On average, emperor penguins are about 3’9″ tall.
For scale, these emperor penguins are hanging out in Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo next what I’m assuming is an adult human rocking some sweet penguin cosplay.
5. On the other end of the size spectrum are these little blue penguins.
They’re not as widely known as the dapper emperors, and they stand about a foot tall, give or take.
6. Penguins are all about that seafood life.
7. Even the little ones have huge appetites.
The entire species of Adélies, one of the smaller penguins, puts away 1.5 million metric tons of krill a year (and that doesn’t include their appetite for fish and squid).
8. Remember, though: Penguins don’t live at the North Pole.
Although a penguin-driven Santa’s sleigh would be pretty adorable in theory.
9. Most species of penguin live down south, in places like Antarctica, New Zealand, and — like the ones below — Chile.
10. But that’s not to say penguins can’t live farther north.
Beach-bum penguins (er, African penguins) are definitely a thing.
11. You may spot them off the coast of South Africa.
12. Most penguin species are also monogamous.
I’m sorry, but that’s just adorable.
To be clear, though, that doesn’t mean they “mate for life,” so to speak. It simply means, for the most part, that each male will have only one female partner (and vice versa) every mating season. (Still … adorable.)
13. Penguins often make excellent parents, as well.
Both the adult male and female play big roles in hatching and rearing their young ones — like this couple of Gentoo penguins at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Gay penguins, too, have been known to be pretty damn good at raising their chicks together.
14. Unfortunately, like many animals, penguins have been harmed by humans.
Downtrodden penguins (just like those beach bums) are also a thing.
15. I bet you’ve heard of one major culprit: climate change.
A warming planet means penguins have lost (and are increasingly losing) important sea ice. Sea ice is vital, because that’s where penguins breed and hunt for food.
16. When sea ice disappears, penguin populations shrink. Big time.
A 2014 study found that by the end of this century, at least two-thirds of the world’s emperor penguin colonies will have shrunk by more than half if temperatures creep up as predicted.
17. Humans are also infringing on penguins’ food chains.
When we overfish the oceans, it doesn’t bode well for their diets. How would you feel if penguins starting binge-eating all of our food? (OK, weird visual. But you get the picture.)
18. Protecting penguins isn’t just about penguins, either…
19. Penguins help keep our entire world in balance.
Seriously, no joke.
As the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History points out, protecting penguins is vital in keeping our ecosystems in check:
“Penguins do far more than make us smile, however; they also play important roles in ecosystems both in the ocean and on land. Penguins — adults, young and eggs — serve as food for predators such as leopard seals and seabirds in cold areas, along with foxes, leopards, and even crabs in warmer climates. By chasing after fish, squid and krill, they affect prey populations wherever they hunt. They carry nutrients between land and sea, and enrich both with their feces. Some burrowing species even modify the landscape as they dig nests into the ground.”
20. Bottom line: Penguins are interesting, adorable, and important creatures.
Especially this penguin chick. This one speaks to me.
21. So this Penguin Awareness Day, let’s remember to protect our friends with flippers down south.
Because in more ways than one, they make our world a better place.