The Arctic is a bird-lover’s paradise. The bird cliffs that Iceland and Norway are few of the busiest, most bustling and also breathtaking ~ above earth. Puffins, guillemots, terns and also fulmars all grow in the north. So why are there no penguins in the Arctic? and did they ever before live there? Although there are no penguins in the Arctic today, there are plenty of fascinating connections in between the polar north and also our beloved, tuxedoed sweethearts of the south.

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A question of evolution

“Everything existing in the universe is the fruit the chance and necessity.”

– Greek theorist Democritus

Penguins evolved in the southerly Hemisphere, not in the Arctic. However why?

Here space a couple of possible reasons:

1. Penguins colony on land

Penguins progressed to breed, nest, incubate and also raise their chicks in ~ ground level or in burrows. This works since they are threatened by very couple of (if any) soil predators. When penguins are breakable to skuas and also giant petrels flying overhead, in the north they would have actually fallen food to foxes, wolves, polar bears – maybe even humans!

2. Penguins room flightless birds

There space no flightless birds living in the Arctic today. Flight is an important defence against land predators, permitting birds to escape attack and also nest high up on cliffs.

3. Paris or dive?

Penguins are the most reliable underwater diving bird on earth, and one that the factors is the they sacrificed lightweight, versatile wings for stiffer, heavier flippers. Flippers room no great for flying, however they have permitted penguins to evolve right into true underwater specialists. Penguin skeleton are also thicker than many other birds, which make them too heavy to fly, yet might aid them come dive also deeper by make them less buoyant.

Many seabirds can fly and dive, but this requires compromise. In general, the far better they room at one, the worse they space at the other. For seabirds, there comes a suggest where the services of flight aren’t precious the expense – particularly if girlfriend don’t need to worry about predators top top land!

4. A vain edge

Being maybe to take it deep, lengthy dives gives penguins a competitive edge once feeding in the aquatic environment, which they share with many, much larger whales, seals and birds.

Were there ever penguins in the Arctic?

Yes! In 1936, a Norwegian polar explorer named Lars Christensen experienced the potential for an Arctic penguin population. That plucked ripe king penguins from southern Georgia’s beaches and sent them phibìc aboard the SS Neptune. They were resolved on the Lofoten islands, whereby they would be safe from foxes and other floor predators. Over the next decade, various other species’ the penguin, consisting of macaroni penguins, were additionally introduced.

Their visibility in the Arctic to be short-lived, and the critical time they were spotted remained in 1949. Nobody is certain where they go or even if it is they managed to reproduce, but for a quick time, a beautiful island in the Arctic played organize to a small populace of penguins.

The penguin the the north?

The closest point to a aboriginal Arctic penguin was the delightful pinguinis impennis, a an excellent black and also white bird, which ended up being extinct in 1844. More commonly known as the great Auk, this flightless seabird had actually a lot of in usual with the penguins we view today. It to be agile and graceful underwater and could dive up to 1 kilometres (0.62 miles) deep. It can speed to the surface choose a torpedo, bursting v the water and also leaping onto absent shelves much above. Was standing at about 75-85 centimeter (2.5-2.8 ft), that is size maintained it safe from all but the largest predators, prefer polar bears and also killer whales.

The good Auk to be well known amongst sailors indigenous the north. For thousands of thousands of years it might be spotted across the north Atlantic coast, from northern Canada to Norway, Greenland, Iceland and also the Faroe Islands. Yet pressure from human beings hunting them because that eggs, meat, down – also specimens together they ended up being increasingly rare – journey them come extinction.

When seafarers from the north travelled to the south, lock came throughout beaches covered in black and white seabirds. Castle couldn’t fly, however they might swim! castle reminded seafarers of the great pinguinis impennis, i m sorry is how they obtained their names: penguins.

Although the good Auk was never ever a ‘real’ penguin, its tradition lives ~ above in the naming of ours feathered friends in the southern hemisphere.


Will I ever before see polar bears and also penguins together?

While some scientists and also conservationists have considered settling polar bears in Antarctica, the cost and logistics, and also the threat this can pose for Antarctic ecosystems have actually kept the idea ~ above the shelf. For now, the only place you’ll view penguins and polar bears together is in a documentary or a children book! yet that doesn’t median that friend can’t visit their far-flung homes and also learn exactly how each of them is uniquely adapted to their herbal environment.

Please contact our expedition Experts to discover out more about our trips to Antarctica and the Arctic. We’ll even aid make sure you book your trip to the appropriate pole!

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native by Nina Gallo, Aurora Expeditions’ historian and also certified PTGA polar guide.

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Nina has been drawn to the polar regions since her very first otherworldly suffer of the midnight sunlight in 2002. Because then she has actually spent time in much northern Canada, the Himalayas, the Alps and also deserts in America and Australia, always seeking out quiet, wild corners come explore. She feels extremely privileged to travel to these places and shares she passions for the organic world, person stories and adventure through all the wonderful people she meets. Nina is the author of Antarctica, released by Australian geographic in September 2020.