Emperor Penguins on Stamps

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The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica. The male and female are similar in plumage and size, reaching 122 cm in height and weighing anywhere from 22 to 45 kg. The dorsal side and head are black and sharply delineated from the white belly, pale-yellow breast and bright-yellow ear patches. Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.

Its diet consists primarily of fish, but can also include crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid. In hunting, the species can remain submerged up to 18 minutes, diving to a depth of 535 m (1,755 ft). It has several adaptations to facilitate this, including an unusually structured hemoglobin to allow it to function at low oxygen levels, solid bones to reduce barotrauma, and the ability to reduce its metabolism and shut down non-essential organ functions.

The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, it treks 50–120 km over the ice to breeding colonies which may include thousands of individuals. The female lays a single egg, which is incubated by the male while the female returns to the sea to feed; parents subsequently take turns foraging at sea and caring for their chick in the colony. The lifespan is typically 20 years in the wild, although observations suggest that some individuals may live to 50 years of age.

The Emperor Penguin was described in 1844 by English zoologist George Robert Gray, who created its generic name from Ancient Greek word elements, ptēno-dytēs "without-wings-diver". Its specific name is in honour of the German naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster, who accompanied Captain James Cook on his second Pacific Voyage and officially named five other penguin species.

Together with the similarly coloured but smaller King Penguin (A. patagonicus), the Emperor Penguin is one of two extant species in the genus Aptenodytes. Fossil evidence of a third species—Ridgen's Penguin (A. ridgeni)—has been found in fossil records from the late Pliocene, about three million years ago, in New Zealand

The adult Emperor Penguin stands up to 122 cm tall. The weight ranges from 22.7 to 45.4 kg and varies by sex, with males weighing more than females. The weight also varies by season, as both male and female penguins lose substantial mass while raising hatchlings and incubating eggs. A male Emperor penguin must withstand the Antarctic cold for more than two months to protect his eggs from extreme cold. During this entire time he doesn't eat a thing. Most male penguins will lose about 12 kg (26 lb) while they wait for their babies to hatch.

Distribution and habitat: The Emperor Penguin has a circumpolar distribution in the Antarctic almost exclusively between the 66° and 77° south latitudes. It almost always breeds on stable pack ice near the coast and up to 18 km offshore. Breeding colonies are usually located in areas where ice cliffs and icebergs shelter them from the wind. The total population is estimated at around 400,000–450,000 individuals, which are distributed among as many as 40 independent colonies. Around 80,000 pairs breed in the Ross Sea sector. Major breeding colonies are located at Cape Washington (20,000–25,000 pairs), Coulman Island in Victoria Land (around 22,000 pairs), Halley Bay, Coats Land (14,300–31,400 pairs), and Atka Bay in Queen Maud Land (16,000 pairs). Two land colonies have been reported: one on a shingle spit at Dion Island on the Antarctic Peninsula, and one on a headland at Taylor Glacier in the Australian Antarctic Territory. Vagrants have been recorded on Heard Island, South Georgia, and in New Zealand.

(Source of text: Wikipedia)

 

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