Underwater behavior of gentoo (Pygoscelis papua) penguins


Penguin underwater behavior has been difficult to observe and assess both in the wild and under human care. A study of ten gentoo (Pygoscelis papua) penguins located at the Detroit Zoo investigated underwater behavior from September 2016 to February 2017. In 2016, the Detroit Zoo opened the new Polk Penguin Conservation Center, a habitat with a 25-foot-deep, 326,000 gallon pool designed to improve well-being and promote species-typical behaviors. The gentoo penguins were monitored underwater using both live observation with focal animal sampling and automated temperature-depth recorders. Information was gathered from 90 hours of observation to better understand how the design of the habitat impacted the welfare of the penguins, as measured by use of space, and how often behaviors such as play and aggression occur. Key factors such as location and depth in the water, time of day, proximity to other penguins, and behavior of each penguin were recorded. The results included activity budgets that describe the most common underwater behaviors; conditions of play behaviors and feedings; and interactions with humans; and the amount of time each penguin spent in the water. These factors show how some gentoo penguins in the care of humans utilize their water space, socialize with other penguins, and how the conditions of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center promote good penguin welfare.



Penguin, Gentoo, Pygoscelis papua, Behavior, Underwater