, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 53-61,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 18 Jul 2007

Ornamental colors reveal age in the king penguin


We investigated whether delayed plumage maturation occurred in king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus). Therefore we examined the relationships between age and sex on spectral properties and size of two colored plumage patches and a UV-reflective beak spot, using known-age cohorts. Unlike the colored patch on the breast, we found age differences in ear and beak coloration. These results suggest that head ornaments in king penguins could signal sexual maturity or social status. No sex differences were found in the intensity of colored ornaments, which can result from mutual mate choice or genetic correlation between sexes. Size of colored patches did not relate to age or sex.