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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

A gregarious species, the southern rockhopper penguin breeds in large colonies that may comprise over a hundred thousand nests. Breeding pairs are monogamous, and usually return to the same nest every year. Egg-laying commences around November, with the female usually producing a clutch of two eggs of unequal size (2). Although, in general, only the chick from the larger egg survives to maturity, populations on the Falkland Islands frequently succeed in raising both (5). Incubation takes around 33 days, with both parent birds taking it in turns to sit on the eggs for extended periods of a time, whilst the other forages for food. Incubation is aided by a bare patch of skin on the lower abdomen (known as a 'brood pouch') that allows greater heat transfer to the egg. Once hatched, the male will remain to brood the chick for the first 25 days, whilst the female regularly brings food back to the nest. After this time, the chick is able to leave the nest, and will congregate with other chicks in small groups known as 'crèches' whilst the parent birds forage (2). In order to maintain its waterproof coat, the southern rockhopper penguin engages in frequent grooming, which helps to flatten the feathers and to spread a waxy substance that is secreted just below the tail. Grooming is also an important social bond between pairs. After breeding the southern rockhopper penguin forages extensively in order to build up fat reserves in preparation for its annual moult. It takes around 25 days for the penguin's coat to be fully replaced, at which point it leaves the land and spends the winter months foraging at sea, before returning to shore to breed in the following spring (2). The diet of the southern rockhopper penguin is composed of a variety of oceanic species, such as crustaceans, squid, octopus and fish (4). Groups may often feed together and dives may be to depths of up to 100 metres (2).
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Description

Previously classed as a single species, the rockhopper penguin has now been split into a northern (Eudyptes moseleyi) and southern species (Eudyptes chrysocome) (3). Although both species are similar in appearance, the distinctive yellowish plumes extending from the yellow line above the eye are significantly shorter and less dense in the southern rockhopper penguin (2) (3). The body is small but robust, with slate-grey upperparts and white underparts, the bill is short and reddish-brown and the eyes are red. Juveniles can be identified by the lack of adult yellow markings (2).
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Distribution

Range Description

Eudyptes chrysocome breeds on islands located in the South Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, ranging from 46 S in the South Atlantic Ocean and South Indian Oceans to Macquarie Island at 54S in the Southern Ocean. The species occurs as two subspecies. E. c. chrysocome breeds on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), at 55 distinct breeding colonies (total of 210,418 breeding pairs in 2005), and a number of offshore islands in southern Argentina and Chile (Isla de los Estados: 173,793 pairs in 1998, Isla Pinguino: 501 pairs in 2007, Isla Ildefonso: 86,400 pairs in 2006, Diego Ramirez: 132,721 pairs in 2002, Isla Noir: 158,200 pairs in 2005, Isla Barnevelt: 10,800 pairs in 1992, Cape Horn: 600 pairs in 1992, Isla Terhalten: 1,000 pairs in 2005 and Isla Buenaventura: 500 pairs in 1992 [Shiavini et al. 2005, BirdLife International 2010]). Subspecies E. c. filholi breeds on Prince Edward: 38,000 pairs in 2008/2009 and Marion Islands: 42,000 pairs in 2008/2009 (South Africa) (Crawford et al. 2009), Crozet Islands: 152,800 pairs in 1982, Kerguelen Islands: 85,500 pairs in 1985 (French Southern Territories), Heard Island: 10,000 pairs in 1987 (Heard and McDonald Islands [to Australia]), Macquarie Island: 37,500 pairs in 2007 (Australia) and Campbell: 51,000 pairs in 1986, Auckland and Antipodes Islands (New Zealand). Other than the populations in Chile and Argentina, which may have increased (Oeler et al. 2008), all other subpopulations have undergone severe declines (Ellis et al. 1998): for example, approximately 1.5 million pairs are estimated to have been lost from Campbell Island (94% of the original total) between 1942 and 1986 (Cunningham and Moors 1994, Huin 2007), and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) population fell by around 1.4 million pairs between 1932 and 2005 (87% of the original total) (Ptz et al. 2003). Several other sites appear to have suffered severe declines (of more than 40%) between the 1970s and the 1990s: Marion Island (Crawford et al. 2003), Antipodes Islands and Auckland Islands (Ellis et al. 1998). Population modelling, based on those breeding sites that have been accurately surveyed, indicates that over the past 37 years (three generations) the number of Southern Rockhopper Penguins has declined by 34% (BirdLife International 2010).
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Rockhopper penguins are found on islands in the southern ocean, such as the Falkland Islands. They occur farther north than many other penguin species.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native )

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Historic Range:
New Zealand - Campbell Plateau

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Range

The southern rockhopper penguin breeds on a number of Southern Ocean islands. Two subspecies are currently recognised, Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome, which is found in the Falkland Islands, Isla Pinguino, Staten Island, and islands off southern Chile and Argentina, and Eudyptes chrysocome fiholi, which is found on several subantarctic islands to the south of New Zealand and South Africa (4).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Rockhopper penguins measure about 55 centimeters in length and weigh around 2.5 kilograms. These birds stand upright on two short feet. Their legs are set far back on the body. The waterproof coat, composed of feathers that average 2.9 centimeters in length, is white on the underside and bluish-black on the top. The head has bright yellow plumage on the brow; the yellow feathers extend along the sides. The top of the head has spiked black feathers. The wings are strong, stiff, narrow and flipper-like. Rockhopper penguins have tiny eyes.

Range mass: 2000 to 3000 g.

Average length: 55 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Diagnostic Description

Description

Length: 66-76 cm. Plumage: adult with head, throat, back, wings, tail and undertail coverts black, breast and belly white. Yellow line above eye not meeting on forehead, but ending in long, pale yellow plumes behind each eye. Immature with a line of cream feathers above eye and replacing plumes behind eye. Bare parts: iris red; bill pink to orange-red; feet dull pink with darker webs and black soles.
  • Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban & K. Newman (1982). The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.
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Description

Length: 66-76 cm. Plumage: adult with head, throat, back, wings, tail and undertail coverts black, breast and belly white. Yellow line above eye not meeting on forehead, but ending in long, pale yellow plumes behind each eye. Immature with a line of cream feathers above eye and replacing plumes behind eye. Bare parts: iris red; bill pink to orange-red; feet dull pink with darker webs and black soles.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species returns to its breeding colonies in October, which range from sea-level sites to cliff-tops, and sometimes inland. Two eggs are laid and incubated during November and December for 32-34 days. In February, the chicks fledge and depart the colony (BirdLife International 2010). At most breeding sites, only one chick is fledged by each successful pair. However, there is some evidence that it is not unusual for those in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) to raise two chicks (Clausen and Ptz 2002). They are opportunistic feeders, preying on a variety of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods (Williams 1995).


Systems
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 139 specimens in 3 taxa.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 120 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): -0.665 - 15.495
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.449 - 27.439
  Salinity (PPS): 32.635 - 35.265
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.631 - 7.723
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.362 - 1.990
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.053 - 67.369

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): -0.665 - 15.495

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.449 - 27.439

Salinity (PPS): 32.635 - 35.265

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.631 - 7.723

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.362 - 1.990

Silicate (umol/l): 1.053 - 67.369
 
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Rockhopper penguins are found in high grasses called tussocks, where they make burrows and nest. As their name implies, they live on rocky shorelines.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; saltwater or marine

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland

Aquatic Biomes: coastal

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Depth range based on 139 specimens in 3 taxa.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 120 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): -0.665 - 15.495
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.449 - 27.439
  Salinity (PPS): 32.635 - 35.265
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.631 - 7.723
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.362 - 1.990
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.053 - 67.369

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): -0.665 - 15.495

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.449 - 27.439

Salinity (PPS): 32.635 - 35.265

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.631 - 7.723

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.362 - 1.990

Silicate (umol/l): 1.053 - 67.369
 
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Nesting occurs on cliffs and rocky gullies, and chosen sites are usually situated near to freshwater, either natural springs or puddles (2).
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Trophic Strategy

Rockhopper penguins eat primarily krill (Euphausiacea). They also eat squid and other crustaceans. They make daily trips to the sea to forage.

Animal Foods: fish; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Breeding Category

Vagrant
  • Woehler E.J. (compiler) 2006. Species list prepared for SCAR/IUCN/BirdLife International Workshop on Antarctic Regional Seabird Populations, March 2005, Cambridge, UK.
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Breeding Category

Vagrant
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Their loud cry, "ecstatic vocalization", is used to announce their presence, attract a mate, or announce the boundaries of their territory. As well as vocalizing, these birds shake their heads and cause their yellow eyebrows to fly into a "halo" in order to attract a mate.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

The average lifespan of a rockhopper penguin is 10 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10 years.

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Reproduction

Mating calls, which are species specific, are called "ecstatic vocalization." This draws attention to the bird and announces its intentions. Penguins mate with the same partners from previous years.

Mating System: monogamous

Rockhopper penguins typically mate in the early spring or late summer, enabling the young to go to the sea in the mid-summer. They mate in vast colonies and lay up to two eggs, although sometimes pairs "adopt" a third egg. The first egg is usually 20-50% smaller than second one. The small egg is usually lost, although it is capable of maturing into a normal bird. Adopted eggs are also typically lost. After each egg is laid, it is turned over to the male who sits on it and keeps it in his brood pouch for the next four months until it hatches.

Breeding interval: Rockhopper penguins breed once yearly.

Range eggs per season: 1 to 2.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

While the male penguin sits on the incubating egg, he is nourished by the female, or else he fasts for the entire period. If the female does not return with food for the chick once it has hatched, the male produces "penguin's milk" from his digestive system and regurgitates it for the baby.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male)

  • Williams, A. 1981. The clutch size of macaroni penguins Eudyptes chrysolophus and rockhopper penguins Eudyptes chrysocome. Emu, 81(2): 87.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Eudyptes chrysocome

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 28 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACCGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTAATACCCATCATGATCGGAGGATTCGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTTATA---ATCGGCGCCCCCGACATAGCATTCCCCCGCATGAATAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTCCCCCCTTCCTTCCTACTCCTACTAGCCTCCTCCACAGTAGAAGCAGGAGCTGGCACAGGATGAACTGTATATCCACCACTAGCAGGCAACCTAGCCCATGCCGGAGCATCTGTAGACTTA---GCTATTTTCTCACTCCACCTAGCAGGAGTCTCCTCCATTCTAGGAGCAATTAACTTCATCACCACCGCCATCAACATAAAACCCCCAGCCCTCTCACAGTACCAAACCCCTCTATTCGTATGATCCGTCCTTATCACAGCCGTCCTCCTACTACTCTCACTCCCCGTACTCGCTGCA---GGCATCACCATGCTACTAACAGACCGAAACTTAAACACCACCTTCTTCGACCCCGCCGGAGGAGGTGACCCAATCCTATACCAACACCTC------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------TTT
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Eudyptes chrysocome

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 23
Specimens with Barcodes: 34
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A2abcde+3bcde+4abcde

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Gales, R., Hilton, G., Huin, N., Kirkwood, R., Moore, P., Raya-Rey, A. & Schiavini, A.

Justification
This species has been classified as Vulnerable owing to rapid population declines, which, although they have been on-going for perhaps a century, appear to have worsened in recent years.


History
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
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