Penguins: Spheniscus

Three members of this small group of four penguin species can be found along the coasts of South America and South Africa. The fourth, which is also the smallest has a very limited distribution around the Galapagos Islands. Only the two South American species have overlapping ranges. The bills of the three largest species are predominantly black with a vertical white band across. The upper and lower mandible show very distinct grooves from the band to the feathering of the forehead. Males are larger than females, but otherwise there is not much difference between the sexes. There is some discussion about the specific status of humboldti, magellanicus and demersus since they easily interbreed in captivity, but the two South American species seem not to do so in the wild. It is suggested that the three species are well marked races of just one single species.

Genus Spheniscus

  • Jackass Penguin S. demersus, coast of South Africa and Namibia, some times moving north up to Mozambique, Angola and even Gabon.
  • Humboldt Penguin S. humboldti, coast of Peru and Chile, sometimes moving north and south.
  • Magellanic Penguin S. magellanicus, Atlantic and Pacific coast of southern South America and Falklands, sometimes moving over considerable distances.
  • Galapagos Penguin S. mendiculus, sedentary Galapagos Archipelago.

The skulls of the three larger species are very similar. Based on the material shown below, magellanicus and demersus might have a more rounded cranium. The base of the bill sheath of the lower mandible in humboldti is not black but fades to white.

Humboldt Penguin
Spheniscus humboldti

Culmen: 65.0 mm; total: 126.9 mm
From captivity, unsexed adult

Jackass Penguin
Spheniscus demersus

Culmen: 58.9 mm; total: 115.6 mm
From captivity, adult male

Magellanic Penguin
Spheniscus magellanicus
Culmen: 54.9 mm; Total: 107.0 mm
From captivity, unsexed immature