(1) The penguins of the Antarctic regions very rightly have been called the true inhabitants of that country. The species
is very old. Fossil remains of their ancestors having been found which showed that they have lived there for a long time. The penguin has adapted itself to the sea, like the fishes. This skill
in the water has been gained at the loss of its power
of flight, but this is not terribly important.
(2) In few other regions could such an animal as the penguin raise
its young. When on land its short legs make it hard to get around, and as it cannot fly, it would become an easy prey
to other animals. Here, however, since there are no bears or foxes here, once ashore
the penguin is safe.
(3) The reason
for this is that there is no food on the land. Many ages ago, a different state
of things existed: there were tropical
forests here and at one time, the seals ran about onshore like dogs. As conditions changed, they had to take to the sea for food. Then over time, their four legs became wide paddles or “flippers,” as the penguins’ wings have done, so that at length
they became true inhabitants of the sea.
(4) If the seals (the Adelies’ worst enemy) came back on the land again, there would be an end to all the southern penguin rookeries. As these, however, are inhabited only during four and a half months of the year, the advantage
to the seals in growing legs again would not be great enough to influence evolution
in that direction
. At the same time, I wonder
very much that the seals, who can squirm along at a fair pace
on land, have not crawled up the few yards of ice between the water and some of the rookeries. Even if they could not catch the old birds, they could feast
on the chicks when they are hatched. Fortunately, however they never do this.
(5) When seen for the first time, the Adelie penguin gives you the impression
of a very smart little man in an evening dress suit
, so clean-looking is he, with his shimmering white front and black back and shoulders. He stands about two feet five inches in height
, walking very upright
on his little legs.
(6) He is confident
as he approaches you over the snow, curiosity
in his every movement
. When within a yard
or two of you, as you stand watching him, he stops. Poking his head forward
with little jerky
movements, first to one side, then to the other, he uses his right
and left eye alternately during his inspection
. He seems to prefer
using one eye at a time when viewing any near object
, but when looking far ahead, or walking along, he looks straight
ahead of him, using both eyes. He does this, too, when his anger is aroused
, holding his head very high, and appearing to squint
at you along his beak
(7) After a careful inspection
, he may suddenly
lose all interest
in you, and ruffling up his feathers sink
into a doze
. Stand still for a minute till
he has settled himself to sleep, then make sound
enough to wake
him without startling him, and he opens his eyes, stretching himself, yawns, then finally walks off, caring
no more about you.