Forget about the beautiful stories in ‘March of the Penguins’ where the Polar birds find their soul mates and never give up on love – the truth about the sex lives of Penguins is a lot more sordid – and we’ve known about it for a lot longer than previously assumed. In a fascinating story, The Natural History Museum has unearthed some research about the Adélie penguin’s sex life by Captain Scott’s expedition that was deemed so shocking it was hidden from the public 100 years ago. It took another 50 years before the Adélie penguin was studied again and details about their remarkable sexual violence exposed.
Warning – this it not for the faint of heart! (via the Guardian):
It was the sight of a young male Adélie penguin attempting to have sex with a dead female that particularly unnerved George Murray Levick, a scientist with the 1910-13 Scott Antarctic Expedition. No such observation had ever been recorded before, as far as he knew, and Levick, a typical Edwardian Englishman, was horrified. Blizzards and freezing cold were one thing. Penguin perversion was another.
Worse was to come, however. Levick spent the Antarctic summer of 1911-12 observing the colony of Adélies at Cape Adare, making him the only scientist to this day to have studied an entire breeding cycle there. During that time, he witnessed males having sex with other males and also with dead females, including several that had died the previous year. He also saw them sexually coerce females and chicks and occasionally kill them.