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Antarctic Postcard from the Field: Penguins with Attitude - Windows to the Universe

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   Image courtesy of Jean Pennycook / Penguin Science

From: Jean Pennycook
Cape Royds, Antarctica, January 21, 2008

Penguins with Attitude

Before you read further, take a guess at what these penguins are "saying." It takes researchers a long time to determine the body and facial communication of Adelie penguins or any type of animal. It would be easy to put our words into their mouths, interpreting what we think they mean, but that is anthropomorphizing, which means we are giving human thoughts to non-human things.

Understanding Adelie Penguin language helps us work around them and understand how they interact with other penguins and animals. The pictures above show some of the communication gestures that we understand. The penguin in the top left picture is showing disapproval of a neighbor who is too close or in the way, this gesture comes with a growl. The penguin in the top right photo is surprised and frightened and thinking about what to do. The penguin in the lower left photo is getting ready to attack, it is very angry at my presence, has warned me and now will follow through. The penguin in the lower right photo is trying to show you he will not hurt you or try to steal a rock; he may be inviting another penguin to join him in his nest.

To learn more about Adelie Penguins go to the education page at

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Postcards from the Field: Adelie Penguins 2007

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