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Chinstrap Penguin
Chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus)
Photo: Bjørn Krafft
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Penguins are the symbol of Antarctica. They are abundant with an estimated 20 million breeding couples in the Antarctic area. There are altogether 17 species of penguins, but many of them have their home ranges in subantarctic areas or areas even further north. 

The species most strongly associated with Antarctica are the emperor (Aptenodytes forsteri) and Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) which have their home on the Antarctic continent, and Macaroni (Eudyptes chrysolophus), gentoo (Pygoscelis papua), chinstrap (Pygoscelis antarctica) and king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) which prefer a little less harsh environment further north.  

Penguins do not fly, but are excellent swimmers and divers. They feed on krill and other small crustaceans but also on fish and squid depending on the penguin species. Dives for prey up to 535 m deep have been recorded for emperor penguins. However, the chinstrap which is the most common penguin species in Antarctica, and the one dominating around the South Orkneys where IMR have their monitoring, catch most of their prey in the upper 10 m.  

Chinstrap eggs usually hatch in early January and chicks typically fledge around two months later. During that breeding period, they are particularly vulnerable to food deprival. An aim of the IMR work in the Southern Ocean is to find out to which extent the fishery competes with penguins for the food resources.


What is an ecosystem?

Ecosystems are often described in terms of energy transfer between levels of the food chain. Behind the energy transfer, however, a life or death struggle between predators and prey is taking place. This struggle, in which every individual tries to make the most of itself by spreading its genes, results in what we call the “interplay of nature”. This interplay is fascinating, both as a field of study and as a management problem.

More about ecosystem