Southern Rockhopper Penguin
The Southern Rockhopper Penguin group (Eudyptes chrysocome), are two subspecies of rockhopper penguin, that together are sometimes considered distinct from the Northern Rockhopper Penguin. It occurs in subantarctic waters of the western Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as around the southern coasts of South America.
Description[edit source | edit]
This is the smallest yellow-crested, black-and-white penguin in the genus Eudyptes. It reaches a length of 45–58 cm (18–23 in) and typically weighs 2–3.4 kg (4.4–7.5 lb), although there are records of exceptionally large rockhoppers weighing 5 kg (11 lb). It has slate-grey upper parts and has straight, bright yellow eyebrows ending in long yellowish plumes projecting sideways behind a red eye.
Taxonomy and systematics[edit source | edit]
The Rockhopper Penguin complex is confusing. Many taxonomists consider all three Rockhopper Penguin forms subspecies. Some split the Northern subspecies (moseleyi) from the Southern forms (chrysocome and filholi). Still others consider all three distinct. The subspecies recognized for the Southern Rockhopper Penguin complex are:
- Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome, the Western Rockhopper Penguin or American Southern Rockhopper Penguin - breeds around the southern tip of South America
- Eudyptes chrysocome filholi, the Eastern Rockhopper Penguin or Indopacific Southern Rockhopper Penguin - breeds on subantarctic islands of the Indian and western Pacific oceans.
The Northern Rockhopper Penguin lives in a different water mass than the Western and Eastern Rockhopper Penguins, separated by the Subtropical Front, and they are genetically different. Therefore, northern birds are sometimes separated as E. moseleyi. The rockhopper penguins are closely related to the Macaroni Penguin (E. chrysolophus) and the Royal Penguin (E. schlegeli), which may just be a colour morph of the Macaroni Penguin.
Interbreeding with the Macaroni Penguin has been reported at Heard and Marion Islands, with three hybrids recorded there by a 1987-88 Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition.
Distribution, ecology and status[edit source | edit]
The Southern Rockhopper Penguin group has a global population of roughly 1 million pairs. About two-thirds of the global population belongs to E. c. chrysocome which breeds on the Falkland Islands and on islands off Argentina and southern Chile. These include most significantly Isla de los Estados, the Ildefonso Islands, the Diego Ramírez Islands and Isla Noir. E. c. filholi breeds on the Prince Edward Islands, the Crozet Islands, the Kerguelen Islands, Heard Island, Macquarie Island, Campbell Island, the Auckland Islands and the Antipodes Islands. Outside the breeding season, the birds can be found roaming the waters offshore their colonies.
A rockhopper penguin named "Rocky" in Bergen Aquarium in Norway, lived to 29 years 4 months. It died in October 2003. This stands as the age record for rockhopper penguins, and possibly it was the oldest penguin known.
The Southern Rockhopper Penguin group is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. Its population has declined by about one-third in the last thirty years. This decline has earned them the classification of a vulnerable species by the IUCN. Threats to their population include commercial fishing and oil spills. 
With the approval of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), Drusillas Park in East Sussex holds the studbook for Rockhopper penguins in Europe. Zoo manager Sue Woodgate has specialist knowledge of the species, so the zoo is responsible for co-ordinating the movements of penguins within zoos in Europe to take part in breeding programmes and offer their advice and information about the species.
Behaviour[edit source | edit]
Their common name refers to the fact that, unlike many other penguins which get around obstacles by sliding on their bellies or by awkward climbing using their flipper-like wings as aid, Rockhoppers will try to jump over boulders and across cracks.
This behaviour is by no means unique to this species however - at least the other "crested" penguins of the genus Eudyptes hop around rocks too. But the Rockhopper's congeners occur on remote islands in the New Zealand region, whereas the rockhopper penguins are found in places that were visited by explorers and whalers since the Early Modern era. Hence, it is this particular species in which this behavior was first noted.
Their breeding colonies are located from sea-level to cliff-tops and sometimes inland. Their breeding season starts in September and ends in November. Two eggs are laid but only one is usually incubated. Incubation lasts 35 days and their chicks are brooded for 26 days.
Rockhoppers in popular culture[edit source | edit]
Rockhopper penguins are the most familiar of the crested penguins to the general public. Their breeding colonies, namely those around South America, today attract many tourists who enjoy watching the birds' antics. Historically, the same islands were popular stopover and replenishing sites for whalers and other seafarers since at least the early 18th century. Almost all crested penguins depicted in movies, books and other media are ultimately based on Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome.
In film and video
- Several of the characters in the film Surf's Up, are Rockhoppers.
- Rocko, voiced by James Belushi in the Don Bluth film The Pebble and the Penguin, is a Rockhopper.
- Lovelace, voiced by Robin Williams in the 2006 and 2011 films Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two is a Rockhopper
- Fidgel from the Big Idea Productions video series 3-2-1 Penguins! is a Rockhopper.
- A Rockhopper, voiced by Carlos Mencia, is in the Bob Saget film parody Farce of the Penguins.
- The mascot of the Iwatobi High school in the anime Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club is a Rockhopper.
In computer and video games
- The characters Ivan and Tobi from the Konami video game Sexy Parodius are actually a pair of Rockhoppers.
- Hopper is the name of a Rockhopper Penguin in the Nintendo video game series Animal Crossing.
- Rockhopper is also the name of a pirate penguin in the MMOG Club Penguin.
- The Rockhopper penguin is an adoptable animal in the 2006 PC game, Zoo Tycoon 2: Marine Mania. A fictional joke version of it, the "Killer Penguin", appears as a lab accident in the game's sequel, Zoo Tycoon 2: Extinct Animals. It is depicted as able to kill any animal, including dinosaurs.
- A Rockhopper Penguin is featured on the official logo for Lunar Linux operating system.
In music and literature
- The cover of the Fleetwood Mac album Penguin features a Rockhopper. The penguin subsequently became Fleetwood Mac's mascot.
- Rockhopper IV is the name of a spaceship in Alastair Reynolds's 2005 science fiction novel, Pushing Ice. The ship's logo is a penguin, genus unspecified.
- The Rockhopper Penguin is the official mascot of Swiss Airforce's Pilot Class 2009 (PK 09). www.lineup09.ch
References[edit source | edit]
- BirdLife International (2012). "Eudyptes chrysocome". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- English name updates - IOC Version 2.9 (July 10, 2011), IOC World Bird List
- Trewby, Mary (2002). Antarctica: an encyclopedia from Abbot Ice Shelf to Zooplankton. Auckland, New Zealand: Firefly Books. p. 152. ISBN 1-55297-590-8.
- Eudyptes chrysocome, IUCN
- Woehler, E. J.; Gilbert, C. A. (1990). "Hybrid Rockhopper-Macaroni Penguins, interbreeding and mixed-species pairs at Heard and Marion Islands". Emu 90 (3): 198–210. doi:10.1071/MU9900198.
- Rockhopper Penguins, Drusillas Park
- BirdLife International (2008b): [2008 IUCN Redlist status changes]. Retrieved 23 May 2008.
- Glenday, Craig (ed.) (2008): Guinness World Records 2008. Guinness Media, Inc. ISBN 1-904994-19-9
- BirdLife International (2008a) Southern Rockhopper Penguin Species Factsheet. Retrieved 27 May 2008.
- Devon Phelan. "Eudyptes chrysocome rockhopper penguin". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
- Conservation at Drusillas Park, Conservation at Drusillas Park