During Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole in 1910, his team took the time to study penguins – however the sexual activities of the penguins so shocked Scott and his team, that they were removed from official accounts. It is only now, a century later, that they have been made public. According to the records made by George Murray Levick, Scott’s Medical Officer, the male penguins were “hooligans” and the sexual acts he witnessed were ‘depraved’ and ‘perverted’.
George Murray Levick noted many details regarding the Adelie Penguins’ sex life and attempted to publish a paper of the subject, but it was deemed to much for Edwardian times. Speaking to BBC News, Douglas Russell, curator of eggs and nests at the Natural History Museum noted that: “He submitted this extraordinary and graphic account of sexual behavior of the Adelie Penguins, which the academic world of the post-Edwardian era found a little too difficult to publish”.
“It’s just full of accounts of sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks, non-procreative sex, and finishes with an account of what he considers homosexual behavior, and it was fascinating.” Russell said that scientists of the time simply did not have the scientific knowledge to explain Mr Levick’s accounts, especially when it came to the matter of necrophilia.
“What is happening there is not in any way analogous to necrophilia in the human context. It is the males seeing the positioning that is causing them to have a sexual reaction,” Russell added.”They are not distinguishing between live females who are awaiting congress in the colony, and dead penguins from the previous year which just happen to be in the same position.”
“He’s just completely shocked. He, to a certain extent, falls into the same trap as an awful lot of people in seeing penguins as bipedal birds and seeing them as little people. They’re not. They are birds and should be interpreted as such.” Only two copies of Levick’s original account exist, but Russell and his team have now published a re-interpretation of Mr Levick’s findings in the journal Polar Record.
Via BBC News