Can Penguins Smell?

Animals have five sense organs in the body, such as eyes, nose, ears, tongue, and skin. Penguins have all five sense organs.

  • They have very sharp eyes to spot the prey even underwater.
  • They have sharp ears, which are not visible due to the absence of external ear flaps.
  • They have protective skin, which provides insulation from winds.
  • They have a tongue, which doesn’t help them to taste the food.
  • They have a runny nose, which helps them to breathe and smell.

Penguins have good smelling sense. Due to the presence of a large olfactory lobe in their brain, they can smell their food, especially Humboldt Penguins, and African Penguins can smell the odor, which is food or prey related. 

Why do penguins have a runny nose?

Penguins have very sharp eyes, which is very helpful in catching the food even under the water. Similarly, they have a runny nose, yes the trunk of the penguins are located on the upper side of either side of its beak, which is structured just like a hole which is named runny nose.

The runny nose of the penguins consists of a gland called the supraorbital gland, which is commonly present in some marine birds. This gland is a type of nasal gland present in penguins, which keeps the penguins healthy though they drink salt water. Usually, penguins don’t drink the saltwater directly when they swallow the prey saltwater get inside along with that.

Supraorbital gland emits the sodium chloride from the bird’s body when saltwater gets inside by making it sneeze. This gland helps the marine birds to survive in this type of environment by its filtering capability. Thus, penguins have a runny nose with a supraorbital organ to survive in the saltwater.

Penguin Runny Nose


 Advantages of Supraorbital gland

  1. Eyes of penguins help to spot the food underwater, whereas the nose helps to locate the prey on land.
  2. Glands present in the nose helps to recognize their partner in a vast colony.
  3. Also, penguins take advantage of the nose to escape from predators by smelling.


Finally, we can say penguins can smell like usual organisms. Earlier research on penguins showed that they couldn’t detect the smell, but advanced research on penguins proved that they could identify their prey, mate, as well as predators. Also, they can get rid of saltwater without any harmful side effects. 


Image SourcePenguin Runny Nose by Tijs Michels / CC BY


I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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