Penguins in Love

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Penguins in Love

From Earth in Transition
November 2012

penguin albatross mate for lifeHumans, we've been learning, sometimes have difficulty remembering their vows, especially when one of them is on a tour of duty. But penguins are naturally faithful to each other. And one particular pair of Magellanic penguins turns out to be among the most faithful of couples.

Their relationship has spanned 16 years, despite spending long periods apart and each of them taking solo trips totaling 200,000 miles.

Each year they have returned to each other and to their nest, where they rear a new brood of chicks.

Scientists have banded thousands of Magellanic penguins to learn more about them. “The bond they have is incredible really,” said Dr. Pablo Garcia Borboroglu, president of the Global Penguin Society, who has been leading the research. It is unbelievable how far Magellanic penguins swim – and each breeding season they come back to the same nest and to the same partner.”

It's not all joy in these marriages. If their chicks die, which often happens, penguin couples break up. Sometimes, too, one of the pair gets into trouble on the long, arduous journey in search of food, and never returns.

Other threats to the penguins include oil spills and overfishing by humans. As a result, many of the Magellanic flocks have dropped by half in just the past 15 years.

penguin albatross mate for lifeIncidentally, perhaps the most well-known of long-lasting bird couples are among albatrosses. They mate for life, can live for 80 years, and ride the air currents of the Pacific for years at a time before returning to their homes and families.