Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Emperor Penguin Courtship and Breeding

Emperor Penguin Courtship and Breeding

Courtship rituals vary throughout animals. The rituals of the Emperor Penguin are extremely interesting and provide a glimpse into the different habits of animals. Breeding season for these penguins start in March and April when most travel more than 50 miles inland to look for a mate. Emperor Penguins are considered to be serial monogamous, which means they are "married" and there is an extremely high percentage that if they find their mate the following year, they will mate with the same as the previous. When the males start their mating call, they produce a sound that is recognized by their mate. If the female does not hear their call out of the thousands of male choices, then there is a likelihood that the female will find another male.

The Emperor Penguins call last about 2 seconds. Once the call is made, he will move around the crowd and keep calling until he finds a mate. Once a potential partner is in sight, they will stand in front and mirror each others posture. They will then walk around the crowd, female following the male until they face and bow to one another before copulation.

Once the female penguin lays her one egg, she will roll the egg carefully to the male and he will store it in his brood pouch which acts as an incubator. Now, the females will leave their egg and mate and return to the sea for months looking for food. Sacrificing food for a little over 100 days in order to hatch the egg. Finally, the female arrives with food for the newly hatched egg either when it has recently hatched or up to 10 days after. Now, it is the males turn to fast for another two weeks in his search for food. Since it is now late July to August, much of the ice and snow has melted and makes it a shorter journey for the male gathering food. He will then return to his mate and hatchling and share the brooding and feeding with his mate. After a couple of months after hatching, the parents stop feeding the baby penguin and he is now responsible for gathering his own food.

Emperor Penguin Breeding Video

Posted by Ryan Dulmaine (4)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Penguin

http://www.emperor-penguin.com/emperor.html

12 comments:

  1. It is amazing how this species of penguin have come to develop such courtship and nurture behaviors. Monogamy in animals, especially birds, is not commonly depicted to the extreme at which the Emperor Penguin portrays. Such breeding behaviors requires a vast amount of sacrifice on both the male and female side, not to mention a high level of endurance! It is quite admiral to witness such behavior; I saw a video on the discovery channel on this particular species and it still seems to surprise me to observe the degree of dedication required from both parties. It is actually very sad because in many cases, the females don't make it back to the starving father and newborn. And if this isn't the case, the egg may never hatch due to environmental conditions of a minor neglect during its incubation. Nevertheless, the observed behaviors are astonishing and border-line magical. It is palpable that for a human, such exposure to extreme conditions is truly unbearable. While it is perfect in their world, if I were asked to sit on an egg through brutal weeks in the numbing cold, I would say "%*&$ that!" But then again, this exemplifies how nature is so perfect in its own way for individual species of animals.

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  2. Hi Ryan,

    Along with the interesting information about penguins, I also found this post like a wonderful children story. Maybe because penguins are so cute but, I wonder what are the potential predators that the male penguins have to deal with while the female is gone for such a long period of time. I also wonder how much food the female brings back since she is gone for so long. Does she keep all of it in her pouch too?

    Posted by Whitney Huynh

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  3. What is the call of the Emperor Penguin like and what about the call attracts a mate? It is rather extraordinary that the male is able to stand for over 100 days to incubate the egg. During this period of time, does the male penguin eat at all? And what about rest? I would imagine the male is constantly protecting the egg from outside forces so it might be hard for it to fall asleep. I know in dolphins that they rest with half their brain and then switch off so that they always maintain some sort of consciousness. I wonder if penguins do the same thing in order to stay constantly alert.

    Posted by James Lin

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  4. Sorry!! First comment submitted by Jose Mijangos

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  5. A truly marvelous display of the sacrifice made by animals for their young. And a perfect example of communication between mates. My line of thought though lays with the context of calls. As we saw with seagulls, various communication displays change depending on context. I personally am curious as to how this applies to this species, beyond just the mating calls.

    Posted by Jacob Lane

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  6. This reminds me a lot like happy feet. I don't know what kind of penguin the animation was based on, but it seems the movie actually follows scientific evidence of how penguins mate. The penguins sing their song or call in this case and after copulation the male is with the egg until the female returns from her journey of looking for food. It is interesting to know that this movie is based on the actual behavior of penguins and is just exagerated to appeal to young children.

    Posted by Noelle Kellicker

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  7. Its amazing how each penguin has only a two second call, yet each call is different and distinct to their mate. I would be interested in further studying how these calls differ and what makes each song distinct. Also I would be interested in how these penguins learn their mating songs: is it trial and error until they find one that works or is innate and takes practice?

    This blog reminds me of a piece that the Boston Globe did last February on the mating habits of the penguin colony at the New England Aquarium. The article talked about how penguin match making was a complicated process with penguins in captivity that involved periods of trial and error. But once a match was found the couple would remain together and swim, eat, and preen together. I think this is cool that the mating habits are so engrained that penguins who have been raised in captivity still practice the same courtship and mating pairs.

    Posted by Suzanne Sullivan

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  8. My first question was "not eating for one hundred days"?. I wonder if this has anything to do with any hormonal changes with the female birds that may lower their metabolism. Since the female penguin isn't just sleeping, instead actively finding food, there has to be some physiological mechanism that allows this to happen. Therefore, what is being triggered. One can assume that leptin, the hormone that is used to suppress hunger, is increased dramatically but how does the penguin still have enough energy?

    Jobin Oommen

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  9. This was a wonderful story. I highly enjoyed it. I wonder if the male gets any sort of food from the female when she comes back from her journey. Hopefully the poor man gets some left over scraps. I also wonder whats makes them so monogamous. Maybe they have a certain gene that causes monogamy compared to other animals. Great post Ryan!

    Posted by Abbie Saranteas

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  10. Thank you Abbie! I am almost positive that the male does not eat upon the females return. He has to fast another 2 weeks until he reaches the water to get his food. Talk about dedication on both parts! Your idea about the gene that causes monogamy is a great question and I hope there are studies in the future that can test this hypothesis. Thanks for the feedback!

    Posted by Ryan Dulmaine

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  11. Whitney, there are many predators that could harm the penguins when they are incubating the egg such as polar bears and arctic wolves. They also have to face the cold wind so they huddle to stay warm. She brings just enough food back that she can fit in her stomach and then regurgitates the food back up to the newly hatched chick.

    Posted by Ryan Dulmaine

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  12. I can't believe that the newborn penguins can survive up to ten days without any food at all. I can understand how the male can fast for so long after storing up fat it's whole life for this purpose but the baby must be born ready for an early fast just in case Mom is late. It is also really interesting that even after 100 days the mother can pinpoint within ten days when she will need to return with food, that is a very good internal clock considering that time period.

    Posted by Jacob Lafauce

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