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Nature 'Sexually Depraved' Penguins?

'Sexually Depraved' Penguins?

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First Posted: Jun 09, 2012 10:41 AM EDT
Adelie Penguin
Penguin populations are declining across the world, and it's more important than ever to take steps in order to preserve these birds. Now, scientists have taken a closer look at the risk factors impacting penguins in order to better target conservation efforts. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

The recent discovery of a lost paper titled, Sexual Habits of the Adélie Penguin gives us a glimpse at the "astonishing depravity" exhibited by Adélie males.

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George Murray Levick, a scientist, first spotted the behavior on an Scottish Antarctic Expedition in from 1910 to 1930. He witnessed a young Adélie male having sex with a dead female.

He returned to Antarctica in 1911 to study a colony of Adélies at Cape Adare, and witnessed the "hooligan males" in action. The section on the sexual depravity of the penguins was deemed too provocative to publish with the rest of his findings, and was removed. He publiished the section on the Adélie's sexual habits in a smaller paper, circulated among a few experts at the time.

Apparently, the Adélie males had sex with dead females, and even forced chicks and other females into having sex. Sometimes, they even killed. They even take "turns" on injured females and some chicks are even "misused before the very eyes of its parents."

Levick says, "little hooligan bands of half a dozen or more and hang about the outskirts of the knolls, whose inhabitants they annoy by their constant acts of depravity."

It was thought that no copies of Sexual Habits of the Adélie Penguin existed anymore until Douglas Russell, the curator of birds at the National History Museum discovered a copy. He then wrote an analysis of the paper and published it in Polar.

He states that the dead female penguin, lying there with her eyes open, can resemble a compliant female as well. Also, he attributes the delinquent behavior to the fact that they are probably young adults, who have never been in a social setting like a colony before at their age. They don't know what to do, and end up acting uncivilized.

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