Weird Nature

10 Borderline Terrifying Facts About The Love Life Of Penguins 

Cynthia Griffith
Updated October 9, 2019 34.6k views 10 items

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. 

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Chick Abuse Is Common Among Adélie Penguins
Chick Abuse Is Common Am... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 10 Borderline Terrifying Facts About The Love Life Of Penguins
Photo: Christopher.Michel/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

Chicks are often abused by their parents or other adult penguins. These baby penguins can be kidnapped, trampled, and even sexually assaulted. A scientist first observed this behavior in 1911, but he was so disturbed by it that he never made the information widely available. Fifty years later, another scientist's work finally revealed the depravity of adélie penguins.

Humboldt Penguins Mate In Poop
Humboldt Penguins Mate I... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 10 Borderline Terrifying Facts About The Love Life Of Penguins
Photo: Ronnie Macdonald/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

Humboldt penguins, which can be found in South America, have a weird fetish. They like to mate in poop. In their defense, they live in rocky areas and it's much easier to burrow in guano than it is rock. Also, people sometimes harvest it for fertilizer as well, so who's to judge, really? 

Humboldt Penguins Cheat On Each Other
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Video: YouTube

Yep - humboldt penguins cheat. Female penguins sometimes just walk out on their mates. Males do it, too, but much less frequently than females. But the mate left behind doesn't just take this lying down. They'll fight their mate's new partner to try and win them back. Most of the time it's only the male penguins that fight, but penguins don't subscribe to gender norms and the females do their fair share of feather pulling and squawking as well. 

Emperor Penguins Aren't Exactly Loyal
Emperor Penguins Aren't ... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 10 Borderline Terrifying Facts About The Love Life Of Penguins
Photo: cedartree_13/flickr/CC-BY-NC 2.0

If you thought human divorce rates were bad, we've got nothing on penguins. All penguin species sometimes "divorce" - or leave their mate for another penguin - but emperor penguins do it the most frequently. Nearly 81 percent of emperor penguins leave their mates at least once.