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Penguins (order Sphenisciformes, family Spheniscidae) are a group of aquatic, flightless birds living almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere. Highly adapted for life in the water, penguins have countershaded dark and white plumage, and their wings have become flippers. Most penguins feed on krill, fish, squid, and other forms of sealife caught while swimming underwater. They spend about half of their life on land and half in the oceans.
In popular culture
Penguins are popular around the world, primarily for their unusually upright, waddling gait and (compared to other birds) lack of fear of humans. Their striking black-and-white plumage is often likened to a tuxedo suit. Mistakenly, some artists and writers have penguins based at the North Pole. This is incorrect, as there are almost no wild penguins in the northern hemisphere, except the small group on the northernmost of the Galápagos. The cartoon series Chilly Willy helped perpetuate this myth, as the title penguin would interact with northern-hemisphere species such as polar bears and walruses.
Penguins have been the subject of many books and films such as Happy Feet and Surf's Up, both CGI films; March of the Penguins, a documentary based on the migration process of Emperors; and a parody entitled Farce of the Penguins. Penguins have also found their way into a number of cartoons and television dramas; perhaps the most notable of these is Pingu, created by Silvio Mazzola in 1986 and covering more than 100 short episodes.
The tendency of penguins to form large groups feeds the stereotype that they all look exactly alike, a popular notion exploited by cartoonists such as Gary Larson. Penguins featured regularly in the cartoons of UK cartoonist Steve Bell in his strip in The Guardian Newspaper, particularly during and following the Falklands War.
In the mid-2000s, penguins became one of the most publicized species of animals that form lasting homosexual couples. A children's book, And Tango Makes Three, was written about one such penguin family in the New York Zoo.
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