‘Penguin Rape’ Among Other Discoveries In Long-Lost Expedition Document
Adelie penguins may be cute and cuddly looking, but the black and white Antarctic birds were as sexually depraved as the worst humans, participating in rape and necrophilia, according to George Murray Levick’s journal from an early 1900s expedition.
The discovery about penguin behavior was originally made by George Murray Levick during the 1910-1913 Scott Antarctic Expedition, in which Levick discovered a young male Adelie penguin trying to have sex with a dead female. Understandably, the sight unnerved the scientist, a typical Edwardian Englishman, who noted that no observation like it had ever been made, according to The Guardian.
Little did Levick know, worse discoveries were to come. The scientist spent the summer of 1911-1912 observing the colony of Adelie penguins at Cape Adare, and is to this day the only scientist to observe an entire mating cycle of the colony.
He discovered many different things during that time period, including males having sex with other males and also with dead females (even those who had died the previous year. He also observed the males sexually coercing females and chicks, occasionally killing them.
The Telegraph reports that Douglas Russell, curator of birds’ eggs and nests at the Natural History Museum in Tring, stated:
“The manuscript is quite extraordinary. It is the most graphic account of challenging sexual behaviour you are every going to read. It is challenging now, but for 1915 when he submitted it for publication, it is extraordinary. It would have been a bombshell if they had published it at the time. At the time homosexuality was still illegal, so one reason he encoded his notes could be that he was fearful of the legal implications of his observations.”
The Telegraph reports that Russell may have a plausible explanation for one of the observations, stating that the receptive position by female penguins during copulation (lying on their front with their feathers held close to their body and eyes partially closed) is very similar to the position Levick described the dead birds being in.