Special Report

The Largest and Smallest Penguins in the World

Cheyenne Buckingham

There are 17 different penguin species in the world, with heights ranging from just over 1 foot to 4 feet, and all of them will be celebrated on World Penguin Day on April 25. Small and large penguins, while different in stature and weight, all seem to roam about in the same fashion — they waddle with their heads held high.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed research compiled by Penguins-World, an online resource that houses a wealth of information on the characteristics of all penguin species. Using Penguins-World data, we reviewed each of the 17 species, listing them from smallest to largest.

This year, those who care about these waddling wayfarers have something to celebrate. Scientists announced in early March the discovery of “mega-colonies” of Adélie penguins on the remote Danger Islands, on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula. These colonies are home to 1.5 million penguins. Apparently, the penguin population on the islands has been undisturbed by the encroachment of mankind and the effects of global warming.

Even so, the population of penguins has been on the decline in the past several years because of multiple factors, including pollution, habitat destruction by humans, and, most notably, global warming. Antarctic penguins such as the Adélie and Emperor may especially face further decline in their populations by the end of the century because of climate change.

The Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has grouped all penguin species into four groups based on risk of extinction. The IUCN determines a species’ risk based on different criteria, including current preservation, population size, and severity of the threats posed, among other factors. Five penguin species are in danger of extinction, and another five are classified as vulnerable.

With the exception of the Galapagos penguin, all of the species inhabit coastlines and islands below the equator. The Galapagos penguin lives in a warmer environment in comparison with the other species, usually in temperatures between 59 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The Emperor penguin, on the other hand, lives in the most frigid habitat of all, withstanding temperatures of minus 40 to minus 76 degrees.

The Galapagos and Emperor penguins could not have a more different genetic makeup. The Galapagos penguin weighs a puny 4 to 6 pounds, whereas the Emperor’s weight is that of a prepubescent child, between 55 and 84 pounds. Not only is the Emperor penguin covered in a thick layer of waterproof feathers, but also it carries a glut of body fat that enables its body to tolerate the harsh conditions.

To identify the largest and smallest penguin species, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Penguins-World, an online resource about the biological characteristics of all penguin species. The list is in order of the penguin species’ upper weight limit. This list includes 17 penguin species, although some experts classify 18 groups. Scientists disagree about whether the Northern Rockhopper penguin is a subspecies or unique from the Southern Rockhopper or merely a variation of the same species. We only included the Southern Rockhopper penguin on this list.

Click here to see the largest and smallest penguins in the world.