Spring Forward, Lights Off! Cold Weather Penguins Gearing Up for Spring

By Megan Gregory, PR Aide at Newport Aquarium

As we prepare to set our clocks forward one hour this spring, the Antarctic is preparing to enter winter and say goodbye to the sun.IMG_0290

The Antarctic is on an opposite schedule than the United States. As things get warmer for us, things are vastly getting colder in the South Pole.

Because the earth’s axis is tilted, the Antarctic only has two seasons: Summer and winter. During their summer (Late October through Mid-March) the sun doesn’t fully set while in the winter (Mid-March through Late October) the sun doesn’t rise.

How do we keep our penguins on this cycle?

The lights inside of the exhibit are slightly adjusted each week to mimic the lights of Antarctica. This helps keep the penguins in their natural cycle and exposed to a consistent photoperiod as if they were in the South Pole.

Why is it important to the penguins on this cycle?

It keeps the penguins on their natural cycle by promoting proper breeding and molting cycles. While penguins have reproduced under the care of institutions that chose to use an ON/OFF switch for their lights instead of mimicking the lighting schedules, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) reported enhanced reproductive success with varying annual day length and light intensity.

Ric Urban, Newport Aquarium’s Chief Conservation Officer and a member of the AZA’s Penguin Taxon Advisory Group Steering Committee, said that this also helps the penguins if they’re moved to a new AZA-Accredited institution. It keeps continuity with the penguin and creates a shorter adjustment period inside their new home.IMG_0214

If Newport Aquarium follows the seasons, will guests be able to see the penguins?

Absolutely! We still have lights on in the exhibits which usually start to dim toward the evening hours, around Newport Aquarium closing time. And like Newport Aquarium, most institutions don’t just mimic sunlight, but also moonlight! The illumination is still bright enough for guests to see our penguins waddling and swimming inside.

Guests can see one of the most diverse collections of cold weather penguins at Kroger Penguin Palooza 365 days a year! At Newport Aquarium, we have five species of cold weather penguins under our care: Chinstrap, Gentoo, King, Macaroni, and Southern Rockhopper. Guests can also see our African Penguins with our Penguin Encounter, an additional 20-minute experience inside the penguin house where you can get close and maybe touch one!

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