The genus Spheniscus (“wedge-shaped”) contains four living species of penguins collectively known as “the banded penguins”, due to their similar coloration. They are sometimes also known as “Jack-ass penguins” due to their loud locator calls sounding similar to a donkey braying. Common traits include a band of black that runs around their bodies bordering their black dorsal coloring, black beaks with a small vertical white band, distinct spots on their bellies, and a small patch of unfeathered or thinly feathered skin around their eyes that can be either white or pink.
The four extant species of banded penguins are:
- Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus
- Humboldt Penguin Spheniscus humboldti
- Galápagos Penguin Spheniscus mendiculus
- African Penguin or Jackass PenguinSpheniscus demersus
In addition, several extinct species are known from fossils:
- Spheniscuses chilensis (Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of C Andean coast)
- Spheniscus megaramphus (Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of C Andean coast)
- Spheniscus urbinai (Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of C Andean coast)
Contrary to the popular thoughts on penguins, the Spheniscus penguins are not (and apparently never were) Antarctic. The African, Humboldt, and Magellanic species all live in more temperate climates such as South Africa and the southern coasts of Chile and Argentina while the Galápagos Penguin is native to the Galapagos Islands, making it the most northerly of all penguin species.
The former Spheniscus predemersus is now placed in a monotypic (one single species) genus, Inguza.
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