We all love Alaska. In fact, we love penguins even a lot more. For this reason, you can imagine seeing penguins in Alaska. There is definitely no better heavenly feeling than that. Many people want to see penguins in Alaska. Penguins are very cute and interesting. If some people have their way, penguins will be in every country in the world. But as for Alaska, are there any penguins there?
For those who are also curious to know the answer to this question, the response is no. There are no penguins in the wonderful state of Alaska. Many will find this answer heartbreaking. But, there are several reasons why penguins are not found in the Last Frontier State.
Why Are There No Penguins In Alaska?
There are so many reasons behind the absence of the beloved penguin in Alaska. In this section of the piece, we are going to provide answers to this very interesting question. Some actually expect penguins to be in Alaska because they believe Alaska too has ice.
There are those that hold the assumption that all penguins need is some ice. For this, they expect the aquatic flightless birds to be all over Alaska, from Juneau to Anchorage. But that is not the case and there are reasons for that. Here are the reasons:
1. Geographical Location of Natural Habitat:
Most penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact, this is so true that almost all penguin species are native to the Southern Hemisphere. Only one species is anywhere above the Equator. That is the Galapagos penguin. But not even the Galapagos penguin is in Alaska. It is on the coasts of Africa and parts of mainland South America.
A quick look at the geography of Alaska gives the clue. It will provide the much-needed reason why penguins cannot find the place conducive. Alaska is so far up north it is in the Arctic region. That is complete opposite of the Antarctic region. It is the most ideal and natural habitat for a vast majority of the penguin species. But, that is not the only reason.
2. Availability of Predators:
There is another important reason why you will not find any penguins in Alaska. This is the presence of a natural predator – the polar bear. The difference here is that bears are not found in the southern hemisphere. Polar bears are in regions around the Arctic Circle. That is the region where Alaska falls.
Imagine a scenario with bears in the southern hemisphere. Or penguins brought to Alaska or other regions with polar bears, the ending will be bloody. It will be nothing but a catastrophe for the penguins. They will become prey for polar bears.
As such, their numbers will plunge in no time. There are good reasons to fear the polar bear. With a weight of up to 700 kilograms, the polar bear is the largest land carnivores. They will snack on the helpless penguins.
Apart from polar bears, other bears like the grizzlies, brown bears and American bears. These are also present in Alaska. If penguins existed in Alaska, they are going to stand no chance. That is definitely not with these massive carnivorous animals. A good illustration to prove this point is the Galapagos penguin. It is unique. It is one of the few species of penguins that do not live in the Antarctic region close to the South Pole.
These Galapagos penguins face predators in their natural environment. As a result, they have evolved some characteristics for the sake of defense and survival. For instance, the Galapagos penguins have evolved a brighter coat. They also do their nesting inside holes, caves, and burrows.
This latter strategy is to offer protection for their chicks against the predators. Hence, penguins cannot survive and thrive well in an area that is full of polar bears and other species of bears.
It is not an assumption that bears will decimate the population of penguins. As a matter of fact, something very similar had already happened in the past. An extinct bird called the great auk went into extinction for many reasons. One of these reasons is the presence of polar bears on their breeding islands.
It is very interesting to also note one thing. The penguins got their name from the great auk because of their similarities. How the penguins got their name is story for another day.
By nature, penguins are aquatic birds that are best suited for cold regions. But, there are few species of penguins that are within the proximity of the Equator. But these do not find it easy to live and survive there. A very good illustration in this regard is the Galapagos penguin. In other words, the penguins are already located in the area that is best for them. That is the Antarctic region of the southern hemisphere.
Still talking of adaptation, the bodies of the penguins show this. For example, penguins have a very rich coat of feathers alongside large fat deposits. A very good illustration in this regard is the emperor penguin. Many find its chubby appearance very attractive indeed. But there is another interesting perspective on this.
This massive weight of the penguin means that it is not easy for them to migrate from one very cold area to another. They are heavy and moving around is not easy. Add that to the fact that they cannot take to the air. Then you will see that migrating is going to be a lot of work for the penguin.
4. Breeding Environment:
There is also another reason why penguins in Anchorage will not become reality. Penguins can only breed under very specific conditions. This is very true especially of emperor penguins. These are the most iconic of all penguins. These penguins can breed in environments that have specific features.
First, emperor penguins need very spacious areas. They also need fine-tuned temperatures to thrive and breed. They also breed in huge numbers. They need particular beaches that are close to food. Adequate supplies of food are crucial to raising the ever-hungry chicks. Alaska does not have all these characteristics. These are the features that can make it the ideal breeding ground for penguins.
5. Migration Patterns:
Observation has shown something else. There has been no time when penguins included the Arctic regions. This is considering the migration patterns. There are several reasons for this. One of the most prominent of these has to do with the weather. These weather conditions are poor for the penguins along the northern-southern hemisphere corridor.
Between these two hemispheres, the oceans are not cold enough. Hence, penguins cannot migrate by swimming. But that is not all. Considering the fact that penguins are flightless. Hence, there is no way they can get across to the northern hemisphere.
Have There Been Penguins In Alaska Before?
The interesting answer to this question is actually yes. There is an interesting story of how it all happened. Back in the 1980s, some penguins were present at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. But, the adventure did not end well. The removal of the birds was the result at the end of the day. Visitors would not stop throwing coins at the poor birds. The birds would rush for the coins, consume the coins and die.
That was how the brief trip of penguins to Alaska ended. They have not been to the zoo again since then. It is interesting to know that apart from the other factors listed above, there is the human angle too. Human factors can also limit the survival of penguins in Alaska.
Interesting Things About Penguins
Penguins are some of the most beloved creatures on the planet. This is a result of their cute appearance and human-like gait. But there are some other interesting facts about penguins. These facts are in the list in the sections below.
- Almost all the penguin species are in the Southern Hemisphere of the planet. They seem to have this attraction for some of the coldest regions on the planet. A few penguin species do not fit this classification.
- Of all the living penguin species, the largest of them all is the emperor penguin. An adult emperor penguin is a big bird. It can tower above one meter in height and have a bodyweight of up to 35 kilograms. The smallest of the penguin species is the one called little blue penguin. It is also called the fairy penguin and it has a height of less than half a meter. As for the weight, the fairy penguin is only about a kilogram.
- Scientists have discovered something intriguing. Some of the prehistoric species of penguins were big. They were so big that they had the same height and weight as a fully-grown human being.
- Also in times past, penguins were not restricted only to the cold regions of the planet. In fact, some species of penguins that do not exist again today once lived in the hotter regions of the globe.