dimarts, 12 de juny de 2012

No crime too low for these penguins


Hidden for nearly 100 years for being too "graphic," a report of "hooligan" behaviors, including sexual coercion, by Adelie penguins observed during Captain Scott's 1910 polar expedition have been uncovered and interpreted.
The naughty notes were rediscovered recently at the Natural History Museum in Tring, in England, and published in the recent issue of the journal Polar Record.
George Levick, a surgeon and the medical officer on Scott's famous 1910-1913 expedition to the South Pole, called the Terra Nova expedition, detailed his account of the penguins' seemingly odd behaviors in a four-page pamphlet "Sexual Habits of Adélie Penguins" in 1915. (The expedition, led by Navy Captain Robert Falcon Scott, would arrive at the South Pole to discover that Amundsen had beaten them there.
During their journey, Levick observed and recorded details on the lives of the Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) colony on Cape Adare. He even recorded the very first penguin to the colony — the world's largest of this species — on Oct. 13, 1911.
"Some of the things he noticed profoundly shocked him," said the museum's bird curator Douglas Russell, who discovered the pamphlet. For instance, Levick noted the penguins' autoerotic tendencies, and the seemingly aberrant behavior of young unpaired males and females, including necrophilia, sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks, non-procreative sex and homosexual behaviors.
Considered too explicit for society at the time, the pamphlet wasn't published with the other Terra Nova expedition reports. As such, it remained hidden in the bird collections at the museum to be uncovered recently by Russell.
"Levick's notes were decades ahead of their time and possibly the first ever attempt to reveal the more challenging aspects of bird behavioral strategies to the academic world," Russell said in a statement.
At the time, Levick was so shocked by what he saw he recorded the events in Greek to disguise the information, at one point writing, "There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins."
Levick described penguins that waddled about the colony's outskirts terrorizing any straying chicks as "little knots of hooligans" in his pamphlet. "The crimes which they commit are such as to find no place in this book, but it is interesting indeed to note that, when nature intends them to find employment, these birds, like men, degenerate in idleness."

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