What happens if a penguin’s mate dies? Will they ever find their love again? Do widowed penguins search for new mates? Do penguins mourn? How do penguins cope with the death of their near and dear ones? What causes penguins to die? What is the mass mourning of penguins? What happens to the bodies of penguins when they die?
All these questions may arise in our minds. Not only penguins but also every living being is doomed to die in this world of mortality. Obviously, we feel sad when we imagine them dying. Life is short but sweet.
The average life expectancy of penguins is 15 to 20 years.
There are many reasons for their death like old age, attack of predators, weather, food shortage, exposure, disease, etc.
- Penguins are monogamous, so they are really grieved at the deaths of their mates.
As we know that penguins are monogamous in nature. The male and female penguins continue to mate throughout their lives. Penguins are very picky in choosing their mates. They are very specific in selecting the right mate. It is a very big decision in their lives. It is commonly observed in the zoo as well as wild penguins, that they often mate with only one partner throughout their lives. There are many reasons why the penguin never comes back to its nesting site. There are many breeding pairs who have been faithful to each other for many years. A special kind of behavior is observed in female penguins. They wait for a period of one year and spend time waiting and mourning. But penguins do understand that finding a new mate is very important.
- Do penguins ever find their love again?
Of course, penguins fall in love only once in a lifetime and cannot find their love again. But penguin widows have to look forward. Penguin chicks cannot be nourished properly with only one care-taker. So, female penguins are compelled to choose new mates. It takes two birds to raise chicks. Being able to pass on genes to the next generation is of utmost importance. Thus, widowed penguins do search for new mates. But penguins never forget their love and sometimes show a special kind of mourning gesture. Marrying again is important for them because if a penguin loses its mate after only a year or two of breeding together, not selecting a new mate would cause them to miss out on years of offspring. Although, male and female penguins “mate for life”, but in some cases, this is not possible and they have to change their partners. Of course, penguins never find their love again but they remain in search of better partners. It is commonly observed that mated pairs often split up because penguins live in perilous and uncertain conditions.
- Do penguins mourn?
Yes, they do. They possess the capacity to mourn because of the presence of certain neurotransmitters and hormones. Grief affects their limbic system, which is the system of nerves and networks in the brain, as well as the prefrontal cortex. They have strong emotions and express them to show affection for their mates. By studying the mourning behavior, I have come to learn that grief is a part of life, all life. Penguins also do mass mourning. Mass mourning: Scores of Emperor penguins mourn in an act of communal grief after the deaths of their chicks and mates. It was initially observed in Antarctica.
On the death of their beloved ones, penguins show intense feelings of grief and extremely depressive behaviors. Tears are not observed in their eyes. They do not cry typically.
- What causes penguins to die?
I will discuss the causes of the penguin’s death very concisely. In water, there are many predators of penguins like leopard seals, fur seals, sea lions, sharks, or killer whales. On land, foxes, snakes, and introduced predators such as feral dogs, cats, and stoats put their lives in danger. Overfishing done by human beings also causes the reduction in the number of fish, so penguins face food shortage, and as a result, they start dying. Climate changes like global warming also cause death of penguins. Sometimes, certain diseases attack on penguins like the birds become susceptible to hypothermia (chilling). Mass exploitation of penguins occurs when human beings hunt them. Rats, cats, dogs, pigs, and ferrets have been known to prey on chicks, eggs, and even adult penguins. Winter starvation and extreme weather conditions also contribute to the deaths of penguins. Old age is obviously the major cause of death. Penguins live in some of the most inhospitable weather conditions, and it is not uncommon for some of them to die due to harsh weather, predators, or starvation. Bodies of dead penguins are consumed by other animals or fossilized. Sometimes, penguins also fight each other during mating season, and it is possible that penguins might die as a result of such encounters. Then there are instances when penguins die because of pollution or manmade disasters such as oil spills. The dead bodies of penguins that die because of oil spills are often found sunken at the bottom of the ocean as the oil coating their bodies makes swimming impossible.
- What happens to the penguins after their death.
As we know that penguins spend most of their time in water and on ice. So their bodies take a lot of time to decompose because the conditions are not suitable enough. Ice melts slowly with the passage of time and bodies of penguins preserve under the ice, still their skins decay. So skins and flesh of penguins get eaten and decayed by bacteria. If biodegradation occurs at a slow rate, then their bones deposit in the form of fossils. But this fossilization process occurs in very rare cases. Dead bodies of penguins often get eaten by scavengers like skuas or giant petrels in Antarctica. So if they die on land ice, they get carried by glaciers, and end up into an iceberg and then in the sea as well. If these birds die on a rare spot of iceless land, they dry out instead of decaying, get covered with other penguins’ excrements, sometimes end up as fossil but most likely get ablated by the very strong wind over the years and end up as dust and a few dry bones sticking from the mud.
Now you may think what happens to the penguins who die in the water. Sometimes the dead bodies of penguins fall in water and are eaten by their sea predators. This can happen due to the shifting of ice or the occurrence of their death near the edge of the water. These dead penguins might be eaten by leopard seals or killer whales that favor penguins as a food source. In some cases, their skin disappears and only bones fall in the water. There is not any phenomenon of one penguin burying his dead mate. So there are many things that can happen to penguins after their death. But this all depends on the location and time of their death. Never believe if you hear or study somewhere that penguins dig holes for burying the dead bodies of their fellow penguins, it’s a common misconception and it has nothing to do with the reality.
Now, in short, I would conclude that penguins don’t dig holes but they do mourn. But their mourning activity is very strange. A lot of penguins gather in the form of groups and then bow sadly at the same time. They know how to react in different situations. Penguins are faithful to a very great extent. Love feelings are embedded in their hearts and the presence of some special hormones enhances their emotional activity. Emperor penguins show slightly different behavior. They don’t have to wait for the death of their mates to choose a new one. They keep on changing their mates throughout their lives.
In some areas of the world, people cook penguins, thus becoming the cause of their death. They consider it a very good source of nutrition. Recipes of roasting the penguins are very common in such areas.
If I say that the breast can make decent steaks and for cooking an omelet, you need to remove some of the white of the egg otherwise it’s not tasty enough; but the overall taste is the same as a normal omelet, I think you will consider it a joke. There also exists a penguin recipe book written by Gerald Cutland. This is something very interesting and I am sure you haven’t ever thought like this. I was also shocked a bit when I observed this thing.
So this was all about the death of penguins and of course, now you know that penguins marry again in order to make more penguins. Their lives basically revolve around the continuity and survival of their species. So they have to select new mating partners to reproduce and look after their chicks although they can’t find their love again.