7 Penguin Secrets That Were Hidden for a Century


Not all black and white

adelie penguin
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The world’s first penguin biologist George Murray Levick was marooned for almost a year in 1910 on Cape Adare on Antarctica, the site of the world’s largest Adelie penguin colony, where he conducted the world’s first serious study of penguins. Many of his observations—but not all of them—were published in his book, Antarctic Penguins: A Study of Their Social Habits. Nearly a century later it was revealed that Levick’s most shocking observations about the mating behavior of the penguins were left out of his published work. “It would take other scientists, myself included, the better part of those one hundred years to unearth the true picture about penguins, which Levick had been the first to see,” notes award-winning scientist Lloyd Spencer Davis, author of A Polar Affair. Davis shares some of Levick’s observations of the penguin as well as his own insights about the proclivities of penguins. Take a look at these penguin pictures that will melt your heart.

Penguins engage in same-sex behavior

Levick describes in his zoological notes the reciprocal homosexual mountings between two male Adelie penguins, whereby one mounts the other, and then they swap places and repeat the performance. He refrained from referring to any of this in his book about penguins. “It would be over 70 years until I would come along, observe the exact same phenomenon between consenting male penguins, and publish what I thought were the ‘first’ observations of homosexuality in wild penguins,” says Davis.

Penguins are not monogamous

adele penguins
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Two years after returning from the Antarctic and one year after publishing his book about penguins, Levick wrote a short paper outlining the lurid side of penguins. However, he was not allowed to publish it. Instead, 100 copies were produced and circulated internally at the British Museum of Natural History. Nearly all were promptly discarded. Nearly a century later, in 2012, Douglas Russell, the senior curator of birds’ eggs and nests at the Natural History Museum (the renamed British Museum of Natural History), would discover a surviving copy of the unpublished manuscript and Levick’s observations about the sexual proclivities of penguins would remain censored no more. Learn more surprising penguin facts.

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