Depraved penguins shocked scientist
"Necrophilia, sexual coercion, auto-erotic behaviour, sexual and physical abuse of chicks and homosexual behaviour" were just some of the sexual behaviours of the Adelie penguin which left George Murray Levick, a scientist with the 1910 -1913 Scott Antarctic Expedition, in a state of shock.
During the Antarctic summer of 1911-12, Levick became the first scientist to observe a colony of Adelie penguins and, to this day, the only scientist to have studied an entire breeding cycle there. What he found, however, disturbed him deeply.
He blamed this "astonishing depravity" on "hooligan males" and recorded his observations in Greek, so only the educated could understand. But the section Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguin was removed from his subsequent paper as it was deemed too shocking, and lost to history.
Now, however, a copy has been unearthed by Douglas Russell, curator of birds at the Natural History Museum, and has been published in the journal Polar Record.
While recent studies have helped scientists understand the "hooligan" behaviour of the penguins, the research is nevertheless "startling stuff." An analysis of Levick's work, written by Russell and colleagues William Sladen and David Ainley, sates: "His observations were, however, accurate, valid and, with the benefit of hindsight, deserving of publication."