Do Penguins Kiss?

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The kiss has been exalted by romance enthusiasts from William Shakespeare to those of modern-day literary prowess. It is the most recognized display of affection. While many species do not show affection as a human does, their behaviors otherwise display love. The penguin is one such species, whose emotional bond is shown in a multitude of ways.

The Language of the Kiss

The penguin has a long beak, making it essentially impossible for him to kiss his mate or his young, but penguins have been observed touching their beaks to one another, and pecking each other, possibly as a precursor for endless preening. As opposed to showing affection by kissing, the penguin will rub its face and body against that of its mate, perhaps as an effort to share body heat in the sub-zero temperatures of its habitat. While this may be deemed a survival mechanism, it is widely viewed by scientists as deep affection.

Lifelong Affection

As a species, penguins could teach humans a thing or two about loving for life. The penguin typically mates for life, and if his mate dies, most penguins will make a choice to go it alone. This lifelong affection can be heard in the distinctive calls penguins use to identify their mates within the flock. It can be seen in their gentle pecking, the stand-in for the human kiss, and in the commitment penguins show for sustaining the lives of their offspring. When a female lays a single egg, it is gently passed to lie upon the feet of the father, who will cover it with the thick feathers at the bottom of his body. This gentle and expert care of the newborn further defines penguin affection.

Love Of The Flock

Penguins are social beings, and while they won't be seen at a dinner party kissing and hugging their guests, their affection for their flock is clear in their behaviors. The flock will group together to protect one another from arctic temperatures, especially as the fathers are protecting the eggs while the mothers have left in search of food. The protective circle will morph and change, as those warmed by body heat will move to the outermost part of the circle, to allow others to bask in the warmth of the flock.

The Life-Sustaining Kiss

Upon their return, the mothers, with bellies full of partially digested fish, will regurgitate food to sustain their young. This is commonly referred to as the penguin's kiss. Without this life-sustaining "kiss," the offspring would certainly perish. Penguins will never be found on a first date in the back row of a movie theater, but they've redefined the word "kiss," to sustain the life of their young, further demonstrating their deep emotional bond with one another.

Photo Credits

  • John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images