Why are penguins black and white?


By Scott A. Rowan

Why are penguins black and white?

The specific, tuxedo-looking appearance that penguins are known for is not by accident, it saves their life.

The unique coloring on penguins is called countershading. Sharks, whales, fish, tigers, lions, and thousands of species use countershading as a defensive technique that helps them even when they aren’t aware of a nearby predator.

Much as with sharks, penguins have different have different color backs and bellies. The back is darker to help the penguin blend in with the dark ocean floor when an animal views the penguin from above them looking down. The penguin’s belly is white to help the individual blend in with the bright surface of the water when viewed from below them looking up.


Brennan, Patricia. Penguins and Other Flightless Birds. Chicago, IL: World Book, Inc, 2002.

Daigle, Evelyne. The World of Penguins. New York, NY: Tundra Books, 2007.

Simon, Seymour. Penguins. New York, NY: Collins, 2007.

SLJ Staff. “And Tango Makes Three’ Tops Most Challenged List, Again.” School Library Journal. April 12, 2011. Accessed: January 30, 2013.

Stamps Showing Emperor Penguin Aptenodyte forsteri.” Theme Birds. Accessed: January 30, 2013.

Stefoff, Rebecca. Penguins. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2005.

Walsh, Michael. “Scientists Solve the Mystery of Penguins’ Incredibly Fast Underwater Swimming Speed: A Secret Layer of Bubbles.” Daily News. October 20, 2012. Accessed: January 19, 2013.






#penguins #birds #canpenguinsfly #CGW #coolgrossweird #besurprised #flocked