Adelie penguins, like most penguins, are supposed to be cute birds that everyone ooos and goos over. Clumsy on land. Graceful in the sea. This was the image of these black and white birds until a shocking historical article recently surfaced by Douglas Russell, curator of birds at the Natural History Museum in London. The article, written by the gentleman George Murray Levick in 1913, recounts the observations that Levick witnessed of the Adelie penguins’ breeding habits during the Antarctic summer of 1911-1912. The sum of the article: Adelie penguins are not cute and fuzzy and warm when it comes to sex. They’re monsters…according to polite English society.
The words “hooligan males” and “astonishing depravity” themed the article as Levick explains his shocking observations. Young Adelie male penguins would bang dead females, live females, chicks, essentially anything that moved during breeding season. Levick was so shocked that he wrote down his observations in GREEK so that only educated gentlemen would be able to understand the “horrors” he witnessed.
After surviving an Antarctic summer and winter, Levick returned to England and wrote down his studies for publication. The section regarding the sexual habits of the Adelie penguins was deemed to horrifying for Edwardian England that the section was removed from the published version of Levick’s report.
“The pamphlet, declined for publication with the official Scott expedition reports, commented on the frequency of sexual activity, auto-erotic behaviour, and seemingly aberrant behaviour of young unpaired males and females, including necrophilia, sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks and homosexual behaviour,” states the analysis written by Russell and colleagues William Sladen and David Ainley.
Adelie penguins apparently do everything when it comes to banging. And this type of behavior is NOT acceptable for polite English society. Anybody with a cup of tea and crumpets back in those days would pass out if they read the shocking truth about the crazed sexual depravity of these penguins. Nowadays, however, we find this type of research cool AF so we publish it for the world to see. How 100 years has changed the world of science. Keep it coming.
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