Re: Re Penguin Depth of Vision

Subject: Re: Re Penguin Depth of Vision
From: Stephen Ambrose <>
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 1998 10:55:22 +1000 (EST)
At 08:09 AM 4/2/98 +1000, Paul Fennell wrote:

>     Perhaps Penguins smell their prey?
Hi Paul,

Yes, this may be so. 

It is generally thought that carnivorous birds, e.g. Turkey Vultures (Stager
1964) and/or nocturnal birds, e.g Kiwis (Wenzel 1968, 1972) have better
senses of smell than other bird species. Grubb (1972, 1974) suggests that
shearwaters and storm-petrels may use olfaction (sense of smell) at night to
relocate their nesting colony from long distances, by flying upwind.
Moreover, Bang (1971) describes the olfactory system of penguins, geese and
terns as anatomically well developed.

If penguins do use olfaction to locate prey under water, then there are
extra complications to consider, e.g. water currents, presence of other
odours, a slower diffusion of odoreous molecules in water cf. air, etc. So
do penguins deliberately swim up-current during a dive to pick up odours and
encounter prey being swept along?


Bang, B.G. (1971). Functional anatomy of the olfactory system in 23 orders
of birds. Acta Anat. 58: (Suppl). 1.

Grubb, T.C. (1972). Smell and foraging in shearwaters and petrels. Nature.
237: 404.

Grubb, T.C. (1974). Olfactory navigation to the nesting burrow in the
Leach's Storn-petrel (Oceanodroma leucorrhoa). Anim. Behav. 22: 192

Stager, K.E. (1964). The role of olfaction in food location by the Turkey
Vulture (Cathartes aura). Los Angeles County Mus. Contrib. Sci. 81: 3-81.

Wenzel, B.M. (1968). The olfactory prowess of the Kiwi. Nature. 220: 113.

Dr Stephen Ambrose
Research Manager
Birds Australia (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union)
Australian Bird Research Centre
415 Riversdale Road,
Hawthorn East,
VIC   3123.
Tel:    +61 3 9882 2622
Fax:    +61 3 9882 2677
Email:  S.Ambrose <>  (at work)
             <>   (at home)


Wenzel, B.M. (1972). Olfactory sensation in the Kiwi and other birds. Ann.
NY. Acad. Sci. 188: 183.


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