Gentoo penguin

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Birds

iGentoo Penguin
Gentoo on Petermann Island
Gentoo on Petermann Island
Conservation status

Near Threatened (NT)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family: Spheniscidae
Genus: Pygoscelis
Species: P. papua
Binomial name
Pygoscelis papua
( Forster, 1781)
Penguin at polish Arctowski base
Penguin at polish Arctowski base

The Gentoo Penguin ( pronounced /ˈdʒɛntu/), Pygoscelis papua, is easily recognised by the wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head. Chicks have grey backs with white fronts. Adult Gentoos reach a height of 75 to 90 cm (around 30-45 inches tall). They are the fastest underwater swimming penguins, reaching speeds of 36 km/h.

Two sub-species of this penguin are recognised: Pygoscelis papua papua and the smaller Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii.

Males have a maximum weight of about 8 kg just before moulting, and a minimum weight of about 5.5 kg just before mating. For females the maximum weight is 7.5 kg just before moulting, but their weight drops to below 5 kg when guarding the chicks in the nest.

Gentoos breed on many sub- Antarctic islands. The main colonies are on the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Kerguelen Islands; smaller populations are found on Macquarie Island, Heard Islands, South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. The total breeding population is estimated to be over 300,000 pairs.

Nests are usually made from a roughly circular pile of stones and can be quite large, 20 cm high and 25 cm in diameter. The stones are jealously guarded and their ownership can be the subject of noisy disputes between individual penguins. They are also prized by the females, even to the point that a male penguin can obtain the favours of a female by offering her a nice stone.

Two eggs are laid, both weighing around 500 g. The parents share incubation, changing duty daily. The eggs hatch after 34 to 36 days. The chicks remain in the nests for about 30 days before forming creches. The chicks moult into sub-adult plumage and go out to sea at about 80 to 100 days.

Gentoo penguins are opportunistic feeders, and around the Falklands are known to take roughly equal proportions of fish (Patagonotothen sp., Thysanopsetta naresi, Micromesistius australis), crustaceans (Munida gregaria) and squid (Loligo gahi, Gonatus antarcticus, Moroteuthis ingens).

Gentoos live mainly on crustaceans such as krill, with fish making up only about 15% of the diet.

In the water, sea lions, leopard seals, and orca, are all predators of the Gentoo. On land there are no predators of the full grown gentoos, but birds have been known to steal their eggs and chicks.

The Gentoo are the most timid species of penguin.

The exact origin of the name gentoo is unclear. It was used during the 18th century by both British and Portuguese (originating in the latter case from gentile) to refer to various ethnic groups, notably as a derogatory term for Hindus. It has been speculated that the characteristic white spot of the gentoo penguin may have been seen as similar to a turban.


Gentoo Linux is a Linux distribution named after this penguin, possibly derived from the penguin's great speed, and the fact that the penguin character " Tux" is the Linux mascot. However, Tux is not a Gentoo penguin (his exact species is unknown), given that he does not have the white patch that Gentoo penguins do.


Lower Risk - Near Threatened ( IUCN Red List)

Retrieved from ""