Healthy diets

A Penguin's Diet: What Do Penguins Eat?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: May 17, 2018
A Penguin's Diet: What Do Penguins Eat?

Penguins are some of the most well-known flightless marine birds because of their endearing appearance. There is not a single kind of penguin; in fact, there are between 16 and 19 species within the penguin family, which is scientifically known as Spheniscidae.

Adapted to cold climates, penguins are distributed in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly on the coast of Antarctica, New Zealand, southern Australia, South Africa, the Subantarctic Islands and Argentine Patagonia.

If you want to find out more about this extraordinary bird, this AnimalWised article will talk about a penguin's diet.

You may also be interested in: What Do Kangaroos Eat?
  1. The digestive system of penguins
  2. What do penguins eat?
  3. How do penguins hunt?
  4. Penguins need to be protected

The digestive system of penguins

Penguins assimilate all the nutrients they need from the various foods they eat through their digestive system. Their digestive system works in a similar way to that of human beings, and it is also physiologically similar.

A penguin's digestive system consists of the following components:

  • Mouth
  • Esophagus
  • Gullet
  • Proventriculus
  • Gizzard
  • Intestine
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Cloaca

Another important aspect of the penguin's digestive system is a gland also found in other seabirds which is responsible for removing excess salt ingested with seawater. Therefore, drinking fresh water is unnecessary.

Penguins can go two days without eating and this period of time does not affect any aspect of their digestive system.

A Penguin's Diet: What Do Penguins Eat? - The digestive system of penguins

What do penguins eat?

Penguins are considered to be heterotrophic carnivores, which means they primarily feed on krill, small fish and squid. However, species belonging to the genus Pygoscelis base their diet mainly on plankton.

It can be said that regardless of genus and species, all penguins supplement their diet with plankton, cephalopods and small marine invertebrates.

A Penguin's Diet: What Do Penguins Eat? - What do penguins eat?

How do penguins hunt?

Due to adaptive processes, a penguin's wings have become fins with strong bones and stiff joints, which allow them to dive and propel themselves using their wings. This gives penguins their primary means of mobility in the water.

The hunting behavior of seabirds has been the subject of numerous studies. Researchers from the National Institute of Polar Research in Tokyo put cameras onto 14 penguins in Antarctica. They observed that these animals are extremely fast, and they are capable of eating 244 krill and 33 small fish in 90 minutes.

When penguins intend to capture krill, they swim up towards the surface. It is not an arbitrary behavior, since they seek to deceive their other prey, fish. Once they have caught the krill, penguins quickly change direction and head towards the seabed where they can hunt unsuspecting small fish.

A Penguin's Diet: What Do Penguins Eat? - How do penguins hunt?

Penguins need to be protected

The population of different species of penguin is decreasing more and more due to multiple factors. These factors mainly include oil spillages, the destruction of their habitat, hunting and climate change.

Penguins are a protected species. In fact, even studying them with any scientific purpose requires prior approval and the supervision of various organisations. However, activities like illegal hunting or situations such as global warming continue to threaten this beautiful sea bird.

A Penguin's Diet: What Do Penguins Eat? - Penguins need to be protected

If you want to read similar articles to A Penguin's Diet: What Do Penguins Eat?, we recommend you visit our Healthy diets category.

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A Penguin's Diet: What Do Penguins Eat?