Porpoising penguins and plenty more!

Porpoising penguins

Did you ever want to know more about the waddling, flightless seabirds who appear to be dressed to the nines in handsome tuxedos? According to about.com, penguins are some of the most recognizable and beloved birds in the world, and they are also some of the most unique. Here are some fun penguin facts from about.com and amazing photos from Kevin Bakker, University of Michigan research lab technician in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

While swimming, penguins will leap above the surface of the water, a practice called porpoising. This coats their plumage with tiny bubbles that reduce friction, allowing them to swim as fast as 20 miles per hour (32 kph).

Penguins are found only in the Southern Hemisphere. While most people associate penguins with Antarctica, they are much more widespread and penguin populations can also be found in South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

There are 18 species of penguin in the world. While some species are thriving, 13 of them have declining populations.

The light front and dark back of classic penguin plumage is called countershading and it provides superb camouflage from above and below to protect penguins in the water.

The emperor penguin is the largest of the penguin species and can weigh up to 90 pounds. The fairy penguin is the smallest and weighs only 2 pounds.

Penguins are social birds that form breeding colonies numbering in the tens of thousands. They may use the same nesting grounds for thousands of years, and colonies can number in the millions.

Penguins have many natural predators depending on their habitat, including leopard seals, sea lions, orcas, snakes, sharks and foxes. Artificial threats are also a problem for penguins, including oil spills and other pollution, global warming that changes the distribution of food sources and illegal poaching and egg harvesting.

Read more on About.com>>

Photo captions: (from top)1. Porpoising penguins 2. Midnight march of the penguins with Kevin Bakker 3. A well-worn trail 4. Hatchlings 5. Emperor penguin with the Swedish Icebreaker Oden.

Kevin Bakker took these photos while on research cruises to collect water samples around Antarctica, including one cruise around the Antarctic Peninsula. Amazing! Thanks Kevin!