Saturday, May 29, 2010

Unimportant observation of the day

Once upon a time, a young Scottish lady with who I was a little enamored (okay, a lot enamored - sad story) told me about how as a child she had doubted the existence of dolphins. These were apparently creatures from imaginary stories, like the tooth fairy. This was not a childhood belief I was able to share, because I lived near the Australian coast, and schools of dolphins swimming past were something I commonly saw. Once in a while I would see whales, too.

What makes me remember this now is that I was having a conversation with someone recently and the subject of penguins came up somewhere. (Perhaps we were talking about Linux). The person observed that penguins were exotic and strange creatures to him, and I observed that "Surely you must see them off (and on) the coast of Scotland sometimes". This observation was seen as somewhere between odd and hilarious.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I have since discovered that penguins for some reason only live in the southern hemisphere. For me, penguins are like dolphins. They were quite common where I grew up. In the evenings as I child I would see and hear them running along the beach in the distance. Once, we had one in our bathtub for a few days, as it had managed to get caught in a fishing net that had been washed up on the beach, and my father had rescued it in the hope that it would get better and he could let it go. (If I recall quickly, it was loud and vicious). Until now, I had made the assumption that penguins were pretty common on a much larger portion of the coastlines of the world than is in fact the case. I am usually pretty intolerant of people who assume that the whole world works in exactly the same way as the small bit of it they are familiar with, but in this instance I was guilty myself.


Tim Worstall said...

The N. Hemisphere had "auks" in the penguin ecological niche.

Wiped out by us humans (or a subset of us humans rather).....the Great Auk was at least.

Joshua said...

Another common misconception about penguins is that they only live in the Antarctic.

A few years ago, the rapper Puff Daddy was condemned by animal rights supporters because he had penguins on display at a party in Miami. The penguins were actually native to South Africa, and in fact there are other penguins native to the Galapagos Islands which live near the equator.

Michael Roberts said...

I`ve remembered this about penguins and south hemisphere from "survivor" episode witch I didn`t miss when I was kid.

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