The Penguins of the Tundra Biome

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Penguins are found in the lower portion of the southern hemisphere. Some penguin breeds make a home in southern Africa and South America, but many penguins brave the extreme cold of antarctica and its surrounding islands. Up to seven species of penguin call this ultra-cold region their home for at least part of the year. While the tundra biome is only officially located in the northern (arctic) hemisphere and at the tops of high mountains, conditions in parts of Antarctica and the southern parts of South America and South Africa are tundra-like. (Most of Antarctica is too cold to be considered a tundra biome.)

Tundra Biome Characteristics and Animals

The tundra biome is characterized by its extremely cold weather and lack of biodiversity. The tundra is traditionally described as including the northern Arctic Circle, along with high mountainous regions. However, the northern coast of Antarctica and some Antarctic islands, such as the South Georgia and Scott Islands, can also be included in this biome.

Penguins of Antarctica

Two penguin species breed and live only in Antarctica and the surrounding tundra islands. The Adelie and Emperor penguins are exclusive to this region. Adelie penguins are typified by their blue eyes and tuxedo-like feather pattern. The Emperor penguin, perhaps the best known of the penguins, is also restricted to Antarctica. The largest of the penguin breeds, the Emperor penguin can grow to a weight of 90 pounds (41 kilograms). Members of this breed also venture fairly far inland. During breeding season, Emperor penguins can travel up to 56 miles (90 kilometers) into the continent.

Penguins That Frequent Antarctica

Three other species of penguin will venture onto the main Antarctic continent: the Chinstrap, Gentoo and Macaroni penguins. Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins also spend part of their time on sub-Antarctic islands. Macaroni penguins spend 75% of their time at sea and breed on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands, with one colony breeding on Antarctica proper.

Other Tundra Penguins

Two other penguin species can be found in tundra-like regions near Antarctica. King penguins are the second largest penguins and tend to gather in huge colonies comprised of thousands of birds. Of all the penguin species, the young of King penguins have the longest rearing season, sometimes lasting up to 18 months. Rockhopper penguins also live in tundra-like regions. However, they are found more frequently on southern Atlantic Ocean islands outside of the Antarctic polar front.


About the Author

An avid lover of science and health, Meg Michelle began writing professionally about science and fitness in 2007. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Creighton University and master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins. Her work has appeared in publications such as EARTH Magazine.

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