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All-Black Penguin Is One in a Zillion


Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts
--Life Sciences
--Physical Science
Social Studies
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Grades 2-up

News Content

New photos prove the existence of a very rare all-black penguin.

Anticipation Guide

Ask students, Where do penguins live? If students identify the North Pole as one the penguins habitats, gently correct this often expressed misconception. In fact, penguins live only in Earths Southern Hemisphere. Populations of penguins are found in Antarctica as well as in more temperate regions, including Australia, New Zealand, South America, and South Africa. Thanks to the cold Antarctic Humboldt Current, the Galpagos Penguin is found as far north as the Galpagos Islands, which are located near the equator.

Write the words pigment and melanin on a board or chart. Explain that melanin is dark pigment (coloring) found in the skin, hair, and eyes of humans and many animals. For example, melanin is responsible for our own skin color. As another example, in penguins melanin is responsible for coloring some of their feathers black or bluish. Feathers remain white (colorless) where there is an absence of melanin.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: colony, natural, pigment, varying, exist, and astonishing. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • Our church would not _____ if it werent for all the hard work of its members. (exist)
  • The magicians tricks were absolutely _____! (astonishing)
  • Someday, U.S. astronauts hope to live in a space _____ on the moon. (colony)
  • My grandmother used paint with a lavender _____ to paint her living room walls. (pigment)
  • The label on the fruit juice bottle read !00% _____, no preservatives added." (natural)
  • Daytime high temperatures this spring have been _____ between 40 and 60 degrees. (varying)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story, All-Black Penguin Is One in a Zillion.

    Reading the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might want to share some video of the all-black penguin. So far, no video has been posted to YouTube, but you can find a short clip and a slightly longer report on the National Geographic Web site at these links:
    Video Report
    Short Clip

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

    • Andrew Evans writes for National Geographic Traveler magazine. He was on the last leg of a 10,000 mile trip bus trip" from Washington, D.C., to Antarctica [see Twitter: @bus2antarctica] when he spotted a true rarity: an all-black King Penguin.
    • Other naturalists on the ship said the rare penguin had been spotted on other trips, which means it has been around for awhile. But no one ever captured the bird up close on camera.
    • Melanism is the dark pigmentation of skin, fur, or feathers. Dr. Allan Baker, an ornithologist and head of the Department of Natural History at the Royal Ontario (Canada) Museum, said its extremely rare for there to be melanin deposits over an entire bird. Almost all melanistic birds have white spots where melanin pigmentation has failed to color the feathers. The [all-black penguin] has lost control of its pigmentation patterns," he told National Geographic. Presumably it's some kind of mutation." Genes may play a role, but so might other factors, he added.
    • To date, King Penguins have the largest number of documented cases of extreme melanism among all penguin species. Cases of other species -- including Adlie, Chinstrap, Gentoo, Macaroni, and Royal penguins -- have been recorded.
    • The King Penguin is one of the most distinctive penguins. It has vivid dark yellow/orange detailing on its head, beak, neck, and upper breast. Some feathers appear yellow where the black feathers blend to white.
    • King Penguin males are generally taller and weigh more than the females.
    • Kings feed on krill, small fish, squid, and a variety of crustaceans.
    • Experts estimate that there are a total of about 4.4 million King Penguins. However, scientists are concerned that warming oceans are reducing food resources near the colonies. They worry that climate change could impact the species' long-term survival.
    • King Penguins reproduce between the ages of 3 and 6 years. Most find a new partner each year. When mating is successful, the female will lay only one egg. Both partners will take turns incubating the egg for periods of about 10 days at a time, until the egg hatches at between 50 and 60 days. Once a penguin hatches, the parents will feed the young bird partially digested fish for the first 16 months of life.

    Use the News

    Print out this weeks Use the News printable activity page for students. Or use the questions on that page to check student comprehension.

    Use the News: Answer Key
    Reading Comprehension: How Well Did You Read? 1.c, 2.b, 3.c, 4.d, 5.c.
    Language Practice: Building Vocabulary. 1. lazily, 2. viewed, 3. superb, 4. survives, 5. amazing.
    Reading Comprehension: Whats the Main Idea? c. A most amazing site has got scientists and other people talking about penguins.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science
    NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
    NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
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