Jackass/African Penguin

Photo by Jean van der Meulen from Pexels

Domain: Eukarya
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family: Spenisciformes
Genus: Spheniscus
Species: demersus

First, I would like to clarify that this penguin has two accepted common names, Jackass and African penguin, and I’m not just cursing just for the fun of it. The two common names are used to describe unique features of this species of penguin.

This species is known as the African penguin, because it lives on the coasts of South Africa and in the south Atlantic and southern Indian oceans. It’s lovingly called the Jackass penguin because when it calls out for a mate it sounds like a braying donkey, and the name “Donkey penguin” just doesn’t roll off the tongue. Seriously though, take the time to watch videos of these guys’ mating calls—it will make your day!

Not all penguins live in arctic climates. The African penguin has adaptations that allow it to survive the cold temperatures of the oceans and the sweltering heat of Africa. It has a dense coat of feathers that keeps it warm and water proof. For the hotter weather, its pink glands above the eyes collect blood that is then cooled by the surrounding air to help keep the penguins from overheating.

Jackass penguins grow no bigger than about two feet tall, making them one of the smallest penguin species. It looks very similar to its South American cousin, the Magellanic penguin, but instead of having two black bands on its chest, the jackass penguin has only one black band.

Another cool feature about these guys is that each individual display a unique flecked pattern on its feathers that acts like a fingerprint. Each pattern is unique and allows researchers to keep track of who is who. Jackass penguins can hold their breath for up to 2‒3 minutes and can dive down to 400 feet to catch small fish such as anchovies and sardines, small squid, and crustaceans. African penguins are also really good parents, even if they keep their eggs in nest made of guano (seabird and bat poop). They don’t always mate for life but they stay together through incubation, hatching, and raising.

I’ve liked penguins ever since I was little, but they were never really a main focus of my affections. Penguins are still interesting to read about because each species has their little quirks, like these guys that sound like braying donkeys when they’re looking for a lady. I highly recommend taking the time to read up on these penguins’ they’re the only species of penguin in Africa, and they’ve been declared to be endangered. There are already programs in place to help protect this species, but even that can’t completely stop the overfishing of their food sources.

Penguins braying like donkeys:

Sources and cool links:
Ocean: The Definitive Visual Guide made by the American Museum of Natural History


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