BY CAROLINE PICARD GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

They’re speedy swimmers, adorable waddlers, and frequent movie stars. I mean, what’s not to love about penguins? There’s surprisingly a lot to learn about these flightless birds, so scroll through these amazing photos of penguins for some truly mind-boggling facts — and afterwards, be sure to check out some equally fascinating facts about their marine counterparts, the majestic whale and the amazing polar bear.

The smallest species is the Little Blue Penguin.

Also called little penguins or fairy penguins, these 13- to 15-inch cuties would look teeny-tiny next to 4-feet-tall emperor penguins. They also weigh no more than 3 pounds!

Scientists still don’t know for sure how many kinds there are.

Estimates usually fall in the range of 17 to 20, as there’s still some debate over whether similar types of penguins (like rockhoppers) actually count as different species.

Penguins jump into the air before diving to swim faster.

The move releases air bubbles from their feathers, cutting down on drag and doubling or tripling their speed underwater, according to Smithsonian. To make the leap back ashore, some smaller penguins can launch themselves 6 or 9 feet into the air by speedily swimming to the surface and bursting up over the ice shelf.

Explorers first called them “strange geese.”

That’s what crew member Antonio Pigafetta wrote on Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of the globe, Mental Floss reports. The birds he most likely spotted in the Falkland Islands now go by the name Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus).

They can swim at speeds over 10 miles per hour.

Gentoos, the speediest penguins, can top 20 mph, but most species dart around at a more modest 4 to 7 mph.

And also dive down over 800 feet.

In the deepest dive ever recorded by the Australian Antarctic Division, an emperor penguin reached an amazing 1,850 feet. Those huge depths require a great lung capacity; the longest-known dives have lasted 22 minutes!

Penguins’ suits act as camouflage.

Their black backs blend with the ocean water when seen from above, and the white bellies match the bright surface when viewed from below. This disguises them from predators like leopard seals and helps them catch prey like fish, squid, crabs, and krill.

They can drink seawater.

While penguins sip meltwater from pools and streams when they’re thirsty, their hunting style and diet necessitates a cool adaptation. A supraorbital gland located above their eye removes salt from the bloodstream. The excess sodium then comes out through the bill or by sneezing!

Some extinct penguins grew more than 5 feet tall.

Recently discovered fossils indicate that an ancient breed of penguins once stood taller than the average adult man today at 5-foot-10. Back in its heyday 60 million years ago, Kumimanu biceae probably weighed 220 pounds. Another extinct genus Pachydyptes (pictured) also probably reached about 4 feet.

Penguins don’t have teeth.

Fleshy spines inside their mouths help them swallow fish. The protrusions face backward to help guide the catch down their throats.

They go through a “catastrophic molt” once a year.

Penguins lose all of their feathers during the two- to three-week process, and can’t swim or fish until the important insulation grows back.

Some penguin species mate for life.

Gentoos, rockhoppers, and chinstraps especially remain monogamous. Adelie females can even find their old mates within minutes of arriving at the colony each season.

Couples locate each other with distinct calls.

The unique sounds help them reunite on the breeding ground — a not-so-easy task when there are thousands of identical birds around.

Emperor penguins incubate eggs on their feet.

The male penguins keep them warm under a loose fold of skin. They stay that way for months until the eggs hatch — not leaving even to eat!

Pudgy penguins make good mates.

Because of the intense fasting involved, the females often seek out chubbier guys who can go weeks without food as the ladies take a turn to hunt for fish.

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