10 Borderline Terrifying Facts About The Love Life Of Penguins

In many ways, the love life of penguins is a lot like the love life of humans: some are monogamous, some are divorced, and some are in that awkward in-between zone that makes for the perfect rom-com. However, what the scientific community has known about for years (and what Happy Feet somehow missed) is that these cute penguins have some bizarre - and quite frankly, terrifying - mating rituals. We're talking masturbation, prostitution, and poop fetishes, obviously.

Unfortunately it gets a little darker: penguins divorce, fight over each other, and engage in necrophilia. And darker still, it turns out the scientific community has known about some of this behavior for years and has deliberately chosen not to share it! But don't worry, not everything you know about penguins is a lie: they still dance. 


  • They Engage In Necrophilia

    They Engage In Necrophilia
    Photo: David Cook Wildlife Photography / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Necrophilia is a fact of life for adelie penguins. That's right: they have sex with dead penguins. Weirder still, scientists have known this for over a century and haven't really said anything. One possible explanation is that these penguins are young and inexperienced and don't understand normal sexual cues. They might even mistake a dead penguin for a live one.

  • Penguins Have A Sex Trade

    Penguins Have A Sex Trade
    Video: YouTube

    Adélie penguins need stones to build their nests, which is where females lay eggs. And if a penguin couple finds themselves lacking in stones, the female takes it upon herself to provide for her children. When her mate isn't paying attention, she'll sneak off and have sex with a male that has a surplus of stones. That's right: adélie penguins will trade sex for the stones they need to build a nest.

  • Some Penguins Straight-Up Kidnap Other Penguins' Chicks

    Some Penguins Straight-Up Kidnap Other Penguins' Chicks
    Photo: Christopher.Michel / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    On occasion, a female emperor penguin who experiences a miscarriage will, while “high” on pregnancy hormones, scour the community for abandoned penguins to adopt. If there are no abandoned penguins to adopt, she'll just kidnap one. These kidnappings usually don't last longer than a week and, unfortunately, the kidnapped chick almost always dies as a direct result of the incident. 

  • Penguin Gangs Assault And Rape Other Penguins

    Penguin Gangs Assault And Rape Other Penguins
    Photo: robnunn / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Penguin gangs, as it turns out, are no better than human gangs. Adélie penguins that travel in tight-knit flocks participate in theft, murder, and gang rape. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Some adélie penguins even sexually assault young penguin chicks in order to establish reputation, fear, and dominion.