Latin name: Aptenodytes forsteri

The emperor penguin is by far the largest distribution of all penguin species, standing tall at 115cm and weighing in at an impressive 30kg. The bird looks like a stereotypical black-and-white penguin, except its white feathers have a golden hue that deepens around the neck. Males and females are indistinguishable except at certain points in their breeding cycle, explained below. They are the only birds that live solely in Antarctica. They eat fish and squid, and try to avoid killer whales and leopard seals.

The breeding cycle of the emperor penguin deserves some discussion. Unlike other penguins that lay two eggs per season, the emperor female can only expend enough energy to lay one. The females then take off, leaving the males to incubate the eggs. These eggs are balanced on the feet of the fathers, who huddle together through the darkest nights of the Antarctic winter, where temperatures of -40 degrees celcius are not uncommon. During this time, the males cannot move, so they use their thick layer of blubber as a source of energy to survive. Seven to eight weeks after laying, when the females return to raise the chicks, the males have lost about half their body mass.

Emperor penguins make their colonies on the Antarctic coast, using the steep ice cliffs and icebergs for shelter. About 45 of these colonies are known to exist around the continent. When the penguins move, they keep themselves huddled together to conserve body heat, constantly pushing the birds at the center out to the edge of the crowd, so that each bird gets a pass through the core of the mob, where the temperature can exceed 20 degrees C higher than the outside environment.

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According to Guinness World Records, the emperor penguin is the holder of the deepest dive ever measured accurately. In 1990, an Aptenodytes forsteri reached a depth of 483 m (1,584 feet) in the Antarctican Ross Sea.

The longest lasting bird dive is also in the hands of this super-athlete. An Emperor stayed under water for 18 minutes at Cape Crozier (again, Antarctica) in 1969.

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