21 interesting facts about penguins that may just put a smile on your face.

Did you know penguins are so adorable that they get not just one but two days of annual celebratory attention?

Jan. 20 each year is Penguin Awareness Day, and April 25 is World Penguin Day. So let's appreciate our little tuxedo-clad friends and educate ourselves on why they're (not just so freaking cute but also) important.

Without further ado...


1. Penguins are pretty incredible.

Photo by Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.

Let me tell you why.

2. There are so many different kinds of penguins — 17 to 19 species, to be more precise.

These little ones are Adélie penguins.

Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images.

3. Of all these different species, the emperor penguin is the biggest...

...just as its name implies.

Here's a colony of emperors who appear to be completely over an elephant seal that won't shut up.

"Can it, Rebecca!" Photo by Marcel Mochet/AFP/Getty Images.

4. On average, emperor penguins are about 3'9" tall.

For scale, these emperor penguins are hanging out in Tokyo's Ueno Zoo next to what I'm assuming is an adult human rocking some sweet penguin cosplay.

Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images.

5. On the other end of the size spectrum are these little blue penguins.

They're not as widely known as the dapper emperors, and they stand about a foot tall, give or take.

Photo by Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images.

6. Penguins are all about that seafood life.

That is, they eat things like fish, krill, and squid.

Photo by Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images.

7. Even the little ones have huge appetites.

The entire species of Adélies, one of the smaller penguins, puts away 1.5 million metric tons of krill a year (and that doesn't include their appetite for fish and squid).

Photo by Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.

8. Remember, though: Penguins don't live at the North Pole.

Photo by Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.

Although a penguin-driven Santa sleigh would be pretty adorable in theory.

9. Most species of penguin live down south, in places like Antarctica, New Zealand, and — like the ones below — Chile.

Photo by Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.

10. But that's not to say penguins can't live farther north.

Beach-bum penguins (er, African penguins) are definitely a thing.

Photo by Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images.

11. You may spot them off the coast of South Africa.

Photo by Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images.

The northernmost place wild penguins roam is the Galápagos Islands, which are right on the equator. (Naturally, they are called Galápagos penguins.)

12. Most penguin species are also monogamous.

I'm sorry, but that's just adorable.

Photo by Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.

To be clear, though, that doesn't mean they "mate for life," so to speak. It simply means, for the most part, that each male will have only one female partner (and vice versa) every mating season. (Still ... adorable.)

13. Penguins often make excellent parents as well.

Both the adult male and female play big roles in hatching and rearing their young ones — like this couple of Gentoo penguins at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Gay penguins, too, have been known to be pretty damn good at raising their chicks together.

14. Unfortunately, like many animals, penguins have been harmed by humans.

Downtrodden penguins (just like those beach bums) are also a thing.

Photo by Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images.

15. I bet you've heard of one major culprit: climate change.

Photo by Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.

A warming planet means penguins have lost (and are increasingly losing) important sea ice. Sea ice is vital because that's where penguins breed and hunt for food.

16. When sea ice disappears, penguin populations shrink. Big time.

Photo by Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.

A 2014 study found that by the end of this century, at least two-thirds of the world's emperor penguin colonies will have shrunk by more than half if temperatures creep up as predicted.

17. Humans are also infringing on penguins' food chains.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

When we overfish the oceans, it doesn't bode well for their diets. How would you feel if penguins starting binge-eating all of our food? (OK, weird visual. But you get the picture.)

18. Protecting penguins isn't just about penguins.

Photo by Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images.

19. Penguins help keep our entire world in balance.

Seriously, no joke.

Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

As the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History points out, protecting penguins is vital in keeping our ecosystems in check:

"Penguins do far more than make us smile, however; they also play important roles in ecosystems both in the ocean and on land. Penguins — adults, young and eggs — serve as food for predators such as leopard seals and seabirds in cold areas, along with foxes, leopards, and even crabs in warmer climates. By chasing after fish, squid and krill, they affect prey populations wherever they hunt. They carry nutrients between land and sea, and enrich both with their feces. Some burrowing species even modify the landscape as they dig nests into the ground."

20. Bottom line: Penguins are interesting, adorable, and important creatures.

Especially this penguin chick. This one speaks to me.

Photo by Jennifer Bruce/AFP/Getty Images.

21. So let's remember to protect our friends with flippers down south.

Because in more ways than one, they make our world a better place.

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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