Are there Penguins in Alaska?
Have you ever wondered, are there penguins in Alaska? Well, the short answer is that there are no penguins in Alaska. In fact, penguins exist only in the southern hemisphere with a large number of them living in Antarctica.
Out of 18 species of penguins found all over the globe, eight species of penguins are found in the Antarctic region. You might wonder, after all, both regions are cold with similar environmental conditions, so why aren’t there any penguins in Alaska?
1) Presence of Predators – The region of Alaska has one natural predator that is not found in the southern hemisphere – bears. The presence of bears such as polar bears in the Arctic region ensures penguins won’t survive there. Any efforts to introduce breeding penguins colonies in early 20th century failed because penguins were killed off by predators and they were simply not able to survive in the region.
Along with bears, there are several other predators such as foxes, wolves, and sharks. As there is a fewer number of predators in the southern hemisphere, penguin populations have been able to flourish in the region. The presence of penguins in the northern hemisphere would make them a non-indigenous species, and as penguins are not used to the new species of predators, they will be wiped out quickly. Any previous efforts to establish penguin colonies in the Arctic region were met with failure because of this reason.
2) Unfavorable Migration Conditions – Penguins never migrated to the Arctic region because of the adverse weather conditions in the region between the northern and southern hemispheres. The water temperatures are not cold enough between the two places to make migration possible by swimming, and as penguins cannot fly, their presence in the northern hemisphere is simply not possible.
The hot and humid region of the equator makes it impossible for penguins to cross over to the northern hemisphere. But it is also a blessing in disguise as the apex predators such as foxes and polar bears are also not able to reach them.
3) Adaptation – Penguins are birds that have adapted to live in cold climates and even the species of penguins that are found near the equator, such as the Galápagos Penguin, find it difficult to breed and survive if the temperature gets too high. With time, the Galápagos Penguins developed a lighter coat and took to nesting in burrows and caves to save their chicks from predators.
The heavy coat of feathers and fat deposits on penguins such as the emperor penguin make it difficult to migrate from one cold region to another. This is also one of the reasons why penguins live and breed in the southern hemisphere. Penguins like the emperor penguin need large spaces and unique temperatures to live and reproduce. These penguins also breed in large colonies and they look for specific beaches with proximity to food sources before settling down to raise their chicks.
To sum up, we can say that there are several reasons why there are no penguins in Alaska. From evolution to climate and adaptation reasons, penguins were never able to reach the northern hemisphere. Even efforts made to establish penguin colonies in the Arctic region did not bear fruit because of the presence of predators and unfavorable living conditions for the penguins.
The only way to see penguins in Alaska will be if any zoo keeps and breeds penguins as a conservation effort. In 1972, international regulations stopped the shipments of penguins from south to North American zoos. Since then, the zoos have maintained a population of penguins by careful breeding and movement of penguins from one zoo to another to prevent inbreeding.
Presently, research shows that global warming will create challenging conditions for penguins at even the Antarctic regions. King penguins might have to travel farther to get food for their chicks, and they might relocate further south to seek new breeding ground. But it is highly unlikely that penguins will ever make it to Alaska in the Arctic and survive there.
So, do you have any theories why penguins don’t exist in Alaska? Please let us know your thoughts in the comment section.