Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Who'd be a penguin?!

I just watched 'March of the Penguins', a documentary film about...Emperor Penguins. More precisely, the extraordinary lengths they have to go to in order to maintain their existence. The cinamatography was fantastic; the narration was cheesy. At the time of its release, there was quite a stir, as various interpretations were imposed on it. Some Christian groups heralded it as a prime example of the benefits of the family unit, or as a clear reflection of intelligent design. Some gay groups were keen to point out the existence of homosexual penguin liaisons. Personally, I think that the film was about...penguins.

Specifically, I think if there is any one single message to take home from the film it is this: Emperor Penguins have a pretty raw deal of it. Out of all the life cycles that God/Evolution could have dealt them, theirs is a pretty sucky one. In summary:

  • At the age of five, you emerge from the water in which you've been happily swimming, and waddle in a fashion which is pretty inefficient for 70 miles.
  • You find a mate, get on with it, and wait for an egg to arrive. Once it does, the female passes it to the male (hopefully without calamity) and then waddles the 70 miles back the the sea to try to regain the third of her biomass lost in egg production.
  • The male waits with the egg, until the female returns with dinner for the chick some days/weeks later. He then sets off for the seas, to replace the 50% biomass lost and... to bring back dinner.
  • And so the cycle of long distance takeaways continues, through the longest nights, and harshest weather, until eventually things warm up a bit and the sea comes to the penguins. At which point, back off for a swim, and trying to avoid being eaten by seals.

At all of the above stages there seems to be a risk of death by various methods (cracking, freezing, exhaustion, predation, abandonment) which makes you wonder how on earth the population manages to increase by a net amount of more than three birds per year.

So, who'd be a penguin? Not me, for sure. It did remind me, though of Eddie Izzard's sketch about assignation of the various methods of procreation at the dawn of the universe.

Maybe the penguins don't have it so bad after all...

3 comments:

Mulled Vine said...

The penguins seemed ok in Happy Feet! ;-)

Ginger said...

Ah, CGI weather doesn't have wuite the same bite to it!

Anonymous said...

They might even prefer to live in this Zoo.

1. www.fearnomorezoo.org

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