Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 89 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
PENGUIN, the name of a flightless sea-bird,' but, so far as is known, first given to one inhabiting the seas of Newfound-land as in Hore's "Voyage to Cape Breton," 1536 (Hakluyt, Researches, iii. 168-17o), which subsequently became known as the great auk or garefowl (q.v.) ; though the French equivalent Pingouin2 preserves its old application, the word penguin is by English ornithologists always used for certain birds inhabiting the Southern Ocean, called by the French Manchots, the Spheniscidae of ornithologists. For a long while their position was very much misunderstood, some systematists having placed them with the Alcidae or Auks, to which they bear only a relationship of analogy, as indeed had been perceived by a few ornithologists, who recognized in the penguins a very distinct order, Impennes. L. Stejneger (Standard Nat. Hist. vol. iv., Boston, 1885) gave the Impennes independent rank equivalent to the rest of Carinate birds; M. A. Menzbier (Vergl. Osteol. d. Penguine, Moscow, 1887) took a similar view; M. Filrbringer was first to show their relation to Procellariformes, and this view is now generally accepted. ' Of the three derivations assigned to this name, the first is by Drayton in 1613 (Polyolbion, Song 9), where it is said to be the Welsh pen gwyn, or " white head "; the second, which seems to meet with Littre's approval, deduces it from the Latin pinguis (fat), which idea has given origin to the German name, Fettganse, for these birds; the third supposes it to be a corruption of " pin-wing " (Ann. Nat. History, 4th series, vol. iv. p. 133), meaning a bird that has under-gone the operation of pinioning or, as in one part at least of England it is commonly called, " pin-winging." The first hypothesis has been supported on the ground that Breton sailors speaking a language closely allied to Welsh were acquainted with the great auk, and that the conspicuous white patches on the head of that bird justified the name " white head." To the second hypothesis Skeat (Dictionary, p. 433) objects that it " will not account for the suffix -in, and is therefore wrong; besides which the ' Dutchmen ' [who were asserted to be the authors of the name] turn out to be Sir Francis Drake " and his men. In support of the third hypothesis Mr Reeks wrote (Zoologist, and series, p. 1854) that the people in Newfoundland who used to meet with this bird always pronounced its name " pin wing." Skeat's inquiry (loc. cit.), whether the name may not after all be South American, is to be answered in the negative, since, so far as evidence goes, it was given to the North-American bird before the South-American was known in Europe. 2 Gorfou has also been used by some French writers, being a corruption of Geirfugl or Garefowl. There is a total want of quills in their wings, which are incapable of flexure, though they move freely at the shoulder-joint, and some at least of the species occasionally make use of them for progressing on land. In the water they are most efficient paddles. The plumage, which clothes the whole body, generally consists of small scale-like feathers, many of them consisting only of a simple shaft without the development of barbs; but several of the species have the head decorated with long cirrhous tufts, and in some the tail-quills, which are very numerous, are also long.1 In standing these birds preserve an upright position, sometimes resting on the " tarsus "2 alone, but in walking or running this is kept nearly vertical, and their weight is supported by the toes alone. The most northerly limit of the penguins' range in the Atlantic is Tristan d'Acunha, and in the Indian Ocean Amsterdam Island, but they also occur off the Cape of Good Hope and along the coast of Australia, as well as on the south and east of New Zealand, while in the Pacific one species at least extends along the west coast of South America and to the Galapagos; but north of, the equator none are found. In the breeding season they resort to the most desolate lands in higher southern latitudes, and indeed have been met with as far to the south-ward as navigators have penetrated. Possibly the Falkland Islands are richest in species, though, as individuals, they King-Penguin (A ptenodytes pennanti). are not nearly so numerous there as in many other places. The food of penguins consists of crustaceans, cephalopods and other molluscs, varied by fish and vegetable matter. The birds form immense breeding colonies, known as " rookeries." The nest of grass, leaves, or where vegetation is scanty of stones or rubbish, is placed on the ground or in holes. Two chalky white or greenish eggs are laid. The young penguins, clad in thick down, are born blind and are fed by the parents for an unusually long time before taking to the water. Penguins bite savagely when molested, but are easily trained and display considerable intelligence. The Spheniscidae have been divided into at least eight genera, but three, or at most four, seem to be all that are needed, and I The pterylographical characters of the penguins are well described by A. Hyatt (Proc. Boston Soc. Nat. History, 1871). A. D. Bartlett has observed (Proc. Zool. Soc., 1879, pp. 6-9) that, instead of moulting in the way that birds ordinarily do, penguins, at least in passing from the immature to the adult dress, cast off the short scale-like feathers from their wings in a manner that he compares to " the shedding of the skin in a serpent." 2 The three metatarsals in the penguins are not, as in other birds, united for the whole of their length, but only at the extremities, thus preserving a portion of their originally distinct existence, a fact probably attributable to arrest of development, since the researches of C. Gegenbaur show that the embryos of all birds, so far as is known, possess these bones in an independent condition.three can be well distinguished, as pointed out by E. Coues in Proc. Acad. of Nat. Sci. of Philadelphia, 1872 (pp. 170—212), by anatomical as well as by external characters. They are: (1) Aptenodytes, easily recognized by its long and thin bill, slightly decurved, from which Pygoscelis, as M. Watson has shown, is hardly distinguishable; (2) Eudyptes, in which the bill is much shorter and rather broad; and (3) Spheniscus, in which the shortish bill is compressed and the maxilla ends in a conspicuous hook. Aptenodytes contains the largest species, among them those known as the " Emperor " and " King " penguins A. patagonica and A. longirostris. Three others belong also to this genus, if Pygoscelis be not recognized, but they seem not to require any particular remark. Eudyptes, containing the crested penguins, known to sailors as " Rock-hoppers " or " Macaronis," would appear to have five species, and Spheniscus four, among which S. mendiculus, which occurs in the Galapagos, and therefore has the most northerly range of the whole group, alone needs notice here. (A. N.) The generic and specific distribution of the penguins is the subject of an excellent essay by Alphonse Milne-Edwards in the Annales des sciences naturelles for 188o (vol. ix. art. 9, pp. 23—81); see also the Records of the Antarctic Expedition, 1901—1904.
End of Article: PENGUIN

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.