Penguins Rock at Tennessee Aquarium

Welcome to the chilly world of “Penguins’ Rock” at the Tennessee Aquarium
Explore Ocean Journey’s newest permanent gallery

Chattanooga, Tenn. (April 12, 2007) – A new adventure takes visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium on a voyage thousands of miles southward to the chilly world of the penguin. It’s the latest stop on a journey from the mountains to the sea bringing guests face-to-face with thousands of cool creatures.

The “Penguins’ Rock” gallery features two very active species of cold climate penguins that in this region you can only see at the Tennessee Aquarium. Gentoo and macaroni penguins are now part of the Aquarium’s Ocean Journey experience, taking people to the world’s southern hemisphere and the sub-Antarctic islands surrounding the South Pole.

When visitors enter “Penguins’ Rock” they will find themselves immersed in an interactive gallery that allows them to peer into the penguins’ world both above and below the water.

These busy birds dive into an 18,000 gallon pool of 45 degree water to ride the waves that roll across the floor to ceiling windows. On land penguins are not very graceful, but underwater people say these birds really “fly.” With flippers for speed, and feet and tails for steering and braking, these animals amaze everyone with their agility below the water line.

The Tennessee Aquarium has 20 birds on display, five pairs of gentoo penguins and five pairs of macaroni. Visitors may be surprised by the size of these magnificent birds. Gentoos are the third largest species of penguin, standing 30 to 35 inches tall. Macaronis are the largest of the crested species of penguin, ranging between 25 and 28 inches in height.

Along the rocky shoreline of “Penguins’ Rock”, penguins offer a wide range of interesting behaviors as well. Aquarium aviculturist Amy Graves says penguins are very friendly and noisy birds. “The Gentoos will walk right up to you and give you the penguin version of a “good morning or how are you,” says Graves. It begins with a slight dip of the neck. The head goes down and then back up, when the beak opens, a friendly call emerges.

“They will give me the greeting call over and over again,” smiles Graves. In the penguin’s world, communication is important so mom can find dad, and both parents can locate wandering baby penguins. Each voice is distinct and can be pinpointed among colonies of 80,000 or more birds. Visitors will get a chance at one of the many interactive displays to try and separate one voice from thousands at “Penguins’ Rock”.

“Penguins’ Rock” is a fun and educational experience too. Video displays show guests penguins in their native habitats which surround Antarctica. Touch pools allow visitors to feel the chilly waters penguins call home. And visitors can also compare themselves to life-sized models of three different penguin species. Lively graphics throughout the exhibit also take guests on a fact-finding scavenger hunt of penguin points to ponder.

Docents and educators will also be stationed in “Penguins’ Rock” to answer questions and make sure guests get the most out of their visit.

“The penguins’ arrival sets a new high-water mark in fulfilling our mission to inspire wonder and appreciation for the natural world,” states Charlie Arant, Tennessee Aquarium President and CEO. “Their story is one of fun and fascination. It is equally about human intrusion into natural habitats,” says Arant.

Penguins in the wild face several man-made challenges including habitat destruction, over-fishing, oil spills and global warming. The birds that are on display at the Tennessee Aquarium have not been taken from the wild and are not endangered species. These birds are part of a breeding loan program from SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas.

In time, visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium should see these penguins very selectively choosing the best pebbles for nesting materials and mating rituals. In the future these pairs will provide hours of fascination when eggs are laid, hatched and baby penguins are reared by their parents. This will make “Penguins’ Rock” not only a must see exhibit…….it will be a “must see again and again” exhibit.

Here are a few fast facts on the coolest critters coming to the Tennessee Aquarium:

Gentoo Penguins: (Pygoscelis papua)
Pygoscelis genus includes Adelie, Chinstrap, and Gentoo penguins.
Standing height: 30 to 35 inches
Weight: 10 to 14 pounds

Gentoo penguins breed on many of the sub-Antarctic islands including the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Kerguelen Islands. Smaller populations can be found on the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. The total breeding population is estimated at 320,000 world-wide.

Gentoo penguins at the Tennessee Aquarium have white markings around their eyes and over the top of the head. The name gentoo refers to the inhabitants of India who wore cotton caps that resemble the white band across this penguin’s head. Gentoo penguins have red eyes, orange feet, and their bills are reddish orange and tipped with black.

Gentoos lay two eggs of equal size, a process that is usually completed by late October. Incubation of the eggs takes about 34 days. After the two chicks are hatched, mom and dad put equal effort into raising both chicks. Gentoo pairs remain together for many years, but change nesting sites every season.

Macaroni Penguins: (Eudyptes chrysolophus)
The Eudyptes genuses are crested penguins and include the Erect-crested, Rock hopper, and Macaroni species.
Standing height: 25 to 28 inches
Weight: 9 to 13 pounds

Macaroni penguins breed from parts of the Antarctic Peninsula through South Georgia Island and the South Shetland Islands. Breeding colonies tend to be very large and can number in the hundreds of thousands. The total breeding population world-wide is estimated at 9 million pairs.

Macaroni penguins are easy to identify at the Tennessee Aquarium. Their distinctive yellow crest feathers visually separate them from the gentoo penguins on display. In fact, the macaroni penguins get their name from this yellow plumage that resembled what young Englishmen wore on their hats in the eighteenth century. Macaroni penguins have eyes of red or varying shades of brown. Their feet are pinkish on top and black on the bottom. Their bills are orange.

Macaronis lay two eggs at a time, but their first egg is considerably smaller in size than the second egg. The first egg takes longer to incubate and is almost never successful. If both eggs are lost, macaronis do not re-lay that season. Like gentoos, macaronis practice strong mate fidelity, but keep the same nesting sites each year.

The Tennessee Aquarium is a non-profit institution and inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $19.95 per adult and $10.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.95 per adult and $5.50 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $24.95 for adults and $14.95 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at 1-800-262-0695.
Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

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