What Happens to Dead Penguins?

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. If you have ever wondered what happens to dead penguins, then read on. In this article, we are going to discuss what happens when penguins die on ice or in water. Whether they are killed by predators or they die because of natural reasons, or because of adverse weather conditions – penguin bodies ultimately become a part of the natural cycle if they are consumed by other animals or they decompose into the earth.

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.

So what really does happen to their dead bodies as the cold weather in the Antarctic region makes the decomposition process really slow. Let’s take a look at some of the possible outcomes for dead penguins.

What Happens to Dead Penguins on the Ice?

Dead Penguins Often Get Eaten by Predators
Dead Penguins Often Get Eaten by Predators

As penguins spend most of their time in water or on the ice, if they die when they are on the ice, their bodies take a lot longer to decompose. Ice can slowly melt with time and even if penguin bodies get preserved under layers of ice, their flesh and skin still decay. Ultimately, all that’s left is their skeleton as all flesh and skin slowly gets eaten by bacteria or decomposed by natural causes. In rare conditions when the biodegradation happens at a slow rate, there is a possibility that the penguin’s dead bodies might get fossilized as well.

Often, dead bodies of penguins get eaten by skuas or giant petrels in Antarctica. In places other than Antarctica such as African shores or New Zealand, there are several predators of penguins that include cats, dogs, and local predatory animals that would eat the dead bodies of penguins.

What Happens to Dead Penguins In the Water?

Dead Penguins Sink to the Bottom of the Ocean
Dead Penguins Sink to the Bottom of the Ocean

If the ice shifts and the penguin dead bodies are near the edge of the water, it is possible for their bodies to fall in the water and become food for aquatic predators. If a penguin dies in the water, its body sinks to the bottom of the sea where it decomposes as other dead biological creatures in the water. There is a possibility that dead penguins might be eaten by leopard seals or killer whales that favor penguins as a food source. In rare cases, dead penguins might get washed up on beaches where their bodies decompose with only the skeletons remaining visible.


There are many things that can happen to dead penguins, depending on the location and time of their death. If they don’t get eaten by land or sea-based predators, their bodies might decompose or get fossilized with time. You can be sure of one thing, other penguins rarely have anything to do with the dead bodies of fellow penguins. If you read somewhere that penguins dig holes for the dead bodies of fellow penguins, do not believe that as it is simple misinformation present on the internet.

Do you have any thoughts about what happens to dead penguins? Do let us know your views in the comment section. If you have any queries or questions regarding the subject matter of this article, please feel free to discuss the same in the comments and our team will try to answer your questions in the best manner possible.





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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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