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?

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?

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.






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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Allen French - July 13, 2020

When penguins want to move fast they flop on their belly and paddle using claws on their feet to get a grip on ice and snow.They can be quite friendly to people and will walk up to you. I’ve been to rookies on USCG Icebreaker Eastwind in Deepfreeze 61 and 62.

T - June 29, 2021


I never knew this! Dead Penguins – I never knew this!
Did you ever wonder why there are no dead penguins on the ice in Antarctica ?
Where do they go?
Wonder no more ! ! !
It is a known fact that the penguin is a very ritualistic bird which lives an extremely ordered and complex life. The penguin is very committed to its family and will mate for life, as well as maintain a form of compassionate contact with its offspring throughout its life.
If a penguin is found dead on the ice surface, other members of the family and social circle have been known to dig holes in the ice, using their vestigial wings and beaks, until the hole is deep enough for the dead bird to be rolled into, and buried.
The male penguins then gather in a circle around the fresh grave and sing:
“Freeze a jolly good fellow.”
“Freeze a jolly good fellow.”
You really didn’t believe that I know anything about penguins, did you?


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