Little Penguin

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Little Penguin
Little Penguin
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family: Spheniscidae
Genus: Eudyptula
Species: E. minor
Binomial name
Eudyptula minor
(Forster, 1781)

Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) are also known as Fairy Penguins, Little Blue Penguins, or Blue Penguins. They are a species of penguin that lives near the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. The Little Penguin is the smallest of all the penguins.[2]

Description[change | edit source]

The penguins weight around 0.9 kg (2 lbs) and are up to 40 cm (15 in) tall.[2][3] On average, they are 33 cm (13 in) tall.[4]

The Little Penguin is slate gray or indigo along the head and back, with a white belly and neck. The flippers - wings - are dark blue, with a white edge along the back. Males and females of the species look the same. Juvenile Little Penguins, which are younger than adults, have lighter colors.[4] Little Penguin chicks have blue-grey bellies and brown feathers.[2]

Name[change | edit source]

The scientific name of the Little Penguin is a combination of Greek and Latin. Minor, Latin for "smaller", refers to the small size of the penguin, while Eudyptula means "good little diver".[5]

Originally, the Eudyptula genus includeded two different species of penguin, the Little Penguin (E. minor) and the Fairy Penguin (E. undina).[6]. In 1976, scientists combined these two species into one species (E. minor) with six subspecies.[7] However, new research on the penguins' mitochondrial DNA shows that the DNA of populations in the Australia and southern New Zealand region are very different from those of Little Penguins in northern New Zealand.[7][8] Because of those discoveries, some researchers still argue about whether these two populations should be divided into two different species. Another common argument is over the classification of the White-flippered Penguin. While most believe the White-flippered Penguin is a subspecies of the Little Penguin, some argue that it is a different species. Others argue that it is not a subspecies at all, but a morph that just has different colors.

The six subspecies of the little penguin are:[9]

  • E. m. albosignata, also known as the White-flippered Penguin, is found on the Banks Peninsula and Motunau Island in the central part of the southern island of New Zealand.
  • E. m. variabilis, also known as the Cook Strait Little Penguin, is found at the southern end of the northern island of New Zealand.
  • E. m. iredalei, also known as the Northern Little Penguin, is found at the northern end of the northern island of New Zealand.
  • E. m. novaehollandiae, also known as the Australian Little Penguin, is found in southern Australia and Tasmania.
  • E. m. minor, also known as the Southern Little Penguin, is found in the western and southeastern part of the southern island of New Zealand.
  • E. m. chathamensis, also known as the Chatham Island Little Penguin, is on Chatham Island, to the east of New Zealand.

The little penguin has different common names depending on their location. In Australia, they are often called Fairy Penguins because the Australia population was originally considered a part of that species. In New Zealand, they are called Little Blue Penguins or Blue Penguins because their gray feathers look more blue in the sun. They are also called Kororā in Māori, the language of New Zealand natives.

Habitat[change | edit source]

Little Penguins live in sandy burrows at night and go to the ocean during the day. They can be found right around the south coast of Australia, from Perth in the west to Coffs Harbour on the east coast.[10] They are found all around Tasmania. The largest Little Penguin colonies in New South Wales are on Montague Island, Tollgate Island and Brush Island.[10]

Behavior[change | edit source]

Calls[change | edit source]

A recording of the call of the little penguin

The little penguin is known for its wide variety of calls. In fact, one of the main ways scientists identify different little penguin subspecies is by the differences in the noises the penguin groups make.

Because little penguins live together in large groups, called colonies, it is important they can tell each other apart. Little penguins can find their mates, even in crowded and loud areas, by the distinctive call that each penguin makes.[11]

Little penguins have one call that changes to mean different things.[11] Most calls have a rhythm of two repeated sounds.[12]

Reproduction[change | edit source]

Little penguins are the only penguin species that breeds nocturnally - that is, at night.[11]

In popular culture[change | edit source]

At Phillip Island off the coast of Victoria, there is a "Penguin Parade" where lights and viewing stands have been set up so that people can watch the penguins return to their homes at dusk. Over 500,000 visitors from around the world visit each year.[13]

References[change | edit source]

  1. Bird, J., Butchart, S. (2009). Eudyptula minor. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2008. Retrieved on 6 October 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Wildfacts - Little Penguin". BBC. July 2008. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/wildfacts/factfiles/369.shtml. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  3. "Animal Bytes - Fairy Penguin". SeaWorld. http://www.seaworld.org/animal-info/animal-bytes/animalia/eumetazoa/coelomates/deuterostomes/chordata/craniata/aves/sphenisciformes/fairy-penguin.htm. Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Valerie Grabski (2009). "Little Penguin". Penguin Project. The Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels, University of Washington. http://mesh.biology.washington.edu/penguinProject/Little. Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  5. "Little penguin, Eudyptula minor". Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania. 13 September 2010. http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=5091. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  6. "Endangered Population of Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) at Manly". National Parks and Wildlife Service. March 2003. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/nature/TSprofileLittlePenguinsManlyCovePop.pdf. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Banks, Jonathan C.; Mitchell, Anthony D.; Waas, Joseph R. and Paterson, Adrian M. (6 February 2002). "An unexpected pattern of molecular divergence within the blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) complex". Notornis. The Ornithological Society of New Zealand. http://notornis.osnz.org.nz/system/files/Notornis_49_1_29.pdf. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  8. Peucker, Amanda J.; Dann, Peter and Burridge, Christopher P. (3 January 2009). "Range-wide Phylogeography of the Little Penguin (Eudyptula Minor): Evidence of Long-distance Dispersal". The Auk. The American Ornithologists’ Union. http://www.zoo.utas.edu.au/cb/pdfs/Peucker.pdf. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  9. Roscoe, Richard. "Little (Blue) Penguins". PhotoVolcanica. http://www.photovolcanica.com/PenguinSpecies/Little/LittlePenguinPhotos.html. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Little penguin". Environment and Heritage. 2011. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/TheLittlePenguin.htm. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Fadely, Janey Burger (May 1991). "Vocal Recognition by Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) on Philip Island, Victoria, Australia". San Jose State University. http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1096&context=etd_theses. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  12. Aubin, Thierry and Jouventin, Pierre. "Vocally Recognizing Kin in a Crowd: The Penguin Model". Advances in the Study of Behavior. Academic Press. http://gen.lib.rus.ec/get?nametype=orig&md5=1f709a528935ed4368e8375db2113a13#page=256. Retrieved 08 October 2011.
  13. "Penguins, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia". Tourism Australia. http://www.visitvictoria.com/Regions/Phillip-Island/Activities-and-attractions/Nature-and-wildlife/Wildlife-viewing/Penguins.aspx. Retrieved 17 February 2012.