Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Northern vs. Southern Rockhoppers

Up until recently it was believed that there was one species of rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome). Within the species there had been three subspecies; the southern rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome), the northern rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome moseleyi) and the eastern rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome filholi).

Take a look at this map to see the different areas where each lives. (Click to enlarge.)

Research looking at morphological, vocal, and genetic differences concluded that the northern rockhopper is a unique species (Eudyptes moseleyi), while the eastern rockhopper remains a subspecies of the southern rockhopper.

The main way to physically tell a southern and a northern rockhopper apart is to look at body size and length of the crest feathers.

Take a look at these photos and see if you can tell the difference between the northern, southern, and eastern rockhoppers.

Southern rockhopper penguin

Northern rockhopper penguin

Eastern rockhopper penguin
Photo credit: Heather Urquhart

Southern rockhoppers are smaller and have shorter spiky crests (top picture above), while the northern rockhoppers are larger and have longer crest feathers (middle picture). The difference between the eastern and southern rockhoppers is very slight. The easterns have short crest like the southerns but they have a fleshy area at the gape of their beak (last photo above).

There is also a difference in the patterns under their wings. The two top pictures are southern rockhoppers, while the pair of pictures below are from northern rockhoppers.

Southern rockhopper wings

Northern rockhopper penguins

The next time you are at the Aquarium see if you can spot the differences between our two rockhopper species.

- Andrea

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