Eudyptes schlegeliroyal penguin

Geographic Range

Royal Penguins are a migratory species. All Eudyptes schlegeli make residence on Macquarie Island during the breeding season. The island is located off the South of Australia in the Pacific. It is uncertain where they go during the non-breeding season. Sightings have ranged from Tasmania all the way to the Antarctic sector of the Southern Ocean (Kerry and Clippindale 1997).

Habitat

The only certain habitat of Eudyptes schlegeli is on Macquarie Island. The surface of the island is covered with rock and small shrubs.

Physical Description

Royal Penguins are often confused with Macaroni Penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) (Barham & Barham date unknown). In fact, both of these species were at one time considered to be the same species (Kerry and Clippindale 1997). They are the largest of the crested penguins standing about 70 cm in height. Females are usually slightly smaller than males. Both have yellow/orange and black crests that run from their sides all the way to the tops of their heads. The one distinguishing difference between Royal Penguins and Macaroni Penguins is that Royals have white chins and the Macaroni Penguins have black chins (Kerry and Clippindale 1997).

  • Range mass
    4000 to 5000 g
    140.97 to 176.21 oz
  • Average length
    70 cm
    27.56 in

Reproduction

Royal Penguins are monogamous (Waas et al. 2000). Reproduction only occurs on Macquarie Island from September to March. The season is marked when males arrive and begin building nests made out of grass and lined with small stones. The nests are easily distinguished from other crested penguin nests (Royal 1998). Females arrive in early October and lay eggs near the end of the month. Eudyptes schlegeli are known to breed in both large and small colonies. The largest colony is estimated to have around 500,000 pairs, while smaller colonies can contain a mere 70 to 200 pairs.

Two eggs are laid in the nest but only the second egg is incubated (Waas et al. 2000). Incubation takes approximately 30 to 40 days. When the chick hatches the male protects and raises it for 10 to 20 days. During this time the female penguin gathers and brings food to the nest daily. At an age of about 70 days, the chick is capable of leaving the nest and subsisting on its own. Royal Penguins reach sexual maturity in approximately one year (Royal 1998).

Behavior

There is little known about Eudyptes schlegeli's often perplexing behavior. The migratory patterns are currently under further study. Also, there is an interesting study that investigates mating signals. Researchers have noted that before mating takes place, a vertical head swinging motion and a call are produced by the male penguin (Waas et al. 2000).

Copulation in Royal Penguins does not differ greatly from other similar species. The male stands over the female and pats her back and sides with his flippers. After a short time the male is able to mount securely on top of the female and release sperm on to her cloaca.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The diet of Eudyptes schlegeli consists primarily of euphausiid (26%) and myctophid (52%). Other forms of nourishment come from small fish, squid, and various crustaceans. One interesting observation is that different colonies of the penguins on Macquarie Island (notably the east and west coasts) show significant variations in diet (Kerry 1997).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Today the Royal Penguin provides no real economic gain to humans. Perhaps one could count Eudyptes schlegeli's aesthetic beauty that is observed by tourists on the government protected Macquarie Island. In years past, the species were killed and boiled down for their oil (Royal 1998). Fortunately, today there are more effective ways of getting similar oils and Royal Penguins are no longer hunted.

Conservation Status

There remain roughly 850,000 living pairs of Royal Penguins today. The survival of the species has never been severly threatened. The recent government restrictions and control of Macquarie Island should only benefit Eudyptes schlegeli.

The only fear that scientists have noted is the very limited distribution of the Royal Penguin. A natural disaster could jeopardize the species since breeding only occurs on Macquarie Island.

Contributors

Aaron Koehn (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Author Unknown, 1998. "Royal Penguin/Eudyptes schlegeli" (On-line). Accessed March 2, 2001 at http://expage.com/page/royalpenguin.

Barham, B., P. Barham. date unknown. "Royal Penguins - Eudyptes schlegeli" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2001 at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Peter_and_Barbara_Barham/royal.htm.

Kerry, K., M. Clippindale. 1997. "Royal Penguins: Ten Facts" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2001 at http://www.eaglehawksc.vic.edu.au/kla/sose/antarct/tenfacts/royal.htm.

Waas, J., M. Caulfield, P. Colgane, P. Boag. 2000. Colony sound facilitates sexual and agnostic activities in royal penguins. Animal Diversity, 0003-3472: 78-83.