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The LeBron James Sweepstakes

These are anxious times in the city of Cleveland where a downtown banner in honor of two-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James proclaims, "Born Here. Raised Here. Plays Here. Stays Here."

In most cases, three out of four is seen as a winning percentage. (I know I would've glady accepted that as a batting average while asking girls out back in high school as opposed to the school record hitless streak I preserved through graduation.)

But whether James stays in Cleveland with July 1 free agency approaching is a complete game changer in the mental health of a dedicated, reinvigorated but still mostly hapless sports town.

Taking down the "Born here" banner is the least of it. Having to use it to break falls from high ledges -- fireman rescue style -- is a possibility if LeBron bolts.

Only the Cavaliers can talk to James between now and July. NBA rules allow teams to pay more than other suitors to keep their own superstars. Yet, James' announced intention to "go through the process" and his track record of flirting with New York is the cause of much trepidation and -- at the very least -- downgrades the banner declarative to a question:

Stays Here?

Musical Chairs (Really Expensive Ones)

James, Miami's Dwyane Wade and Toronto's Chris Bosh are friends and Olympic teammates who orchestrated their free agencies to coincide, thereby raising the volume and increasing the tempo in this game of high-stakes musical chairs.

In part for that reason, this is like no other free agency. Baseball, still without a salary cap all these years later, most often produces the free-agent buzz. Alex Rodriguez signed with Texas for $252 million over 10 years. Long before him, Pete Rose made the one of the first ego-inflating "free agent tours" in 1978.

Only in basketball, though, can one superstar change the fortunes of a franchise so quickly. And James is launching himself into those waters at the height of his game and at the still precocious age of 25.

Forbes magazine estimates that the Cavaliers franchise was worth approximately $250 million the year before James came out of high school in Akron, Ohio, and went to work 30 miles north. This past season, in which every home game was sold out, the magazine estimated owner Dan Gilbert's investment at $476 million.

The stakes in part explain why Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland recently stopped in town to join a chorus of local celebrities and politicians in serenading James in a "Please Stay LeBron" video to the tune of "We Are The World."

Strickland defended taking time out of his busy schedule, telling reporters, "Come on, this is economic development. Do you know how important this is to the state of Ohio? LeBron means a lot to the future of our state."

Comedian Mike Polk came up with the idea for the video. His previous Cleveland tourism videos were outrageously funny, though some city officials didn't see the humor. Maybe some of the lyrics -- "Buy a home for the price of a VCR" -- had something to do with it. So, too, the battle cry sign-off of "We're not Detroit!"

The LeBron video was likewise done for comic relief. Some outsiders took it seriously. (I mean, folks, really now. We know "We Are The World" was originally used to raise awareness about world hunger. That's the joke.)

Polk put a famous-in-Cleveland furniture salesman and a personal injury lawyer on the same stage with the Governor and had a U.S. Senator (Sherrod Brown) pipe in on a remote feed. The lyrics offer to name every street in the city after James.

Which, of course, is ridiculous. Too costly. They'd just change the town name to LeBronland.

The LeBron-O-Meter

On the subject of things LeBron, the website partner of the newspaper I work for, The Plain Dealer, began running a daily LeBron-O-Meter offering a daily measurement (do I need to say "unscientific"?) of this period of transition.

Depending on the news or rumor of the day, the LeBron-O-Meter needle can settle into any one of five areas:


Staying.

Looking Good.

Keep 'em Guessing.

Uh-Oh.

Gone.

(It strikes me that given the divorce rate in 2010, this could be a handy tool for marriage counselors to give couples to better help them deal with issues as they arise.)

Everywhere the people of Cleveland look these days they find other women flirting with their beau and third parties sticking their noses in and adding to the stress.

His Many Suitors


From New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he wants James to know what a great place his town is to raise kids. (James has two children.)

On behalf of Chicago, President Obama told Marv Albert in a recent interview that the Bulls would be a "great fit" for James.

Cleveland Browns' great Jim Brown says James will leave because Cavaliers fans were so harsh in their criticism of him after the team's surprising second round loss to the Boston Celtics.

The same day, author Buzz Bissinger, who did a book on James and his high school teammates, said James probably should leave for the benefit of his emotional development because Cleveland fans have coddled him too much.

In Dallas, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $100,000 by the NBA for saying the obvious -- the Mavs would be interested in James if he chooses not to stay in Cleveland.

In Los Angeles, 75 fans of the Clippers staged a parade around Staples Center last Thursday to show James how much they want him. That's impressive. I mean, who knew the Clippers had 75 fans and that they'd know how to stage a parade?

Not to be outdone, a 23-year-old transplanted Clevelander by the name of Brandon George, is intent on making James understand how important it is that he stay in Cleveland.

So George, who lives in Atlanta, waxed his chest.

Then he brushed his teeth with Dave's Insanity Hot Sauce.

I don't know the state of his list, but at that point he had 21 other self-tortures planned. Twenty three in all to match James' jersey number.

George started inlebronwetrust.com. Similar sites have cropped up on behalf of other fan bases. There are at least 67 Facebook groups dedicated to bringing James to New York.

His free agent tour can start on July 1. It'll be the recruiting period he never had as a high school senior, seeing as how every college recruiter knew it would be a waste of time since James long planned to go right from high school to the NBA.

With the NBA keeping an eagle's eye out for tampering with other teams' players ahead of the July 1 date, no organization is even hinting at how it will go about enticing James. Only a handful of teams have the salary cap flexibility to sign a superstar looking for a max contract.

Recruiting Pete Rose

Coincidentally, one of the first free agent tours also involved a hometown guy facing the prospect of leaving his local team -- the aforementioned Pete Rose in 1978.

What I remember about that first ego trip was that Rose appeared to be wearing Zsa Zsa Gabor's fur coat.

Atlanta, Kansas City, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were among those who declared interest in Rose as part of a free agent re-entry draft back then.

Rose chartered a Lear jet and showed up places wearing a $4,000 mink coat. Earlier in the 1978 season, the Reds had asked Rose to stop driving his Rolls Royce to the park because it "made the fans mad." Rose refused.

He took two things on the trip. His agent, Reuven Katz, was one.

The other was a 25-minute video tape of his highlights.

Rose had already won it all with the Big Red Machine. He'd chased Joe DiMaggio's 56-game record hit streak. And he needed a video?

In Atlanta, Ted Turner offered him $1 million a year while he played and $100,000 a year for life in retirement.

In Kansas City, Kaufmann offered him a four-year deal and an oil investment.

Augie Busch in St. Louis offered a beer distributorship.

The Galbreath family in Pittsburgh, which owned Dandy Don Farms, were willing to cut him into the thoroughbred biz.

When Rose accepted a four-year deal in Philadelphia, he left money on the table but wasn't worried.

Of his four-year, $3.2 million contract, Rose said, "You could stack it all up and a show dog couldn't jump over it."

Keep 'em guessing

NBA rules prohibit teams from circumventing the salary cap these days. Like Rose choosing the Phillies because he felt they gave him the best chance to win a World Series, James says his decision will be all about the opportunity to win championships.

When he accepted his second consecutive MVP award during the Boston series, he staged the ceremony at the University of Akron basketball arena where he played many games as a high schooler. His family and friends and teammates all joined him.

Looking at the scene that that day, you couldn't help but think that it would take something extraordinary to extract James from his comfort zone in Northeast Ohio, what with the Cavaliers on the verge of a title.

Someone asked him about that in not those exact words.

"Wherever I go, Akron will always be my home," he said.

On the LeBron-O-Meter, that was "Keep 'em guessing."

Then the Cavs lost three straight to the Celtics and the series.

That put Cleveland fans in "Uh-oh" land.

The LeBron Sweepstakes

Cleveland Cavaliers

Pluses: The Cavs can offer James more money. If he signs a three-year deal, which is the conventional thought, he could make $9 or $10 million more simply by staying. Cavaliers' owner, Dan Gilbert, has spared no expense in trying to build a winner around James. His mother, long-time girlfriend and children are already here. Head coach unsettled after the firing of Mike Brown. But James could have a say in his successor. In a CNN interview with Larry King, James said that Cleveland "absolutely" had an advantage over his other suitors.

Minuses: The Cavs' roster may take a year or more to overhaul and they've lost salary cap flexibility in chasing a title. James may feel a bigger market would help sell him as a brand. He may simply be ready for a change of scenery.

New York Knicks

Pluses: James loves New York and Madison Square Garden as a stage. If you can make it there, you can make...oh, sorry, that's a song I had stuck in my head. The Knicks have the cap room to potentially add James and, say, Toronto's Chris Bosh.

Minuses: The Knicks roster. If they spend on James and Bosh, the rest of their team will be made up of players making the minimum. That's not a recipe for a championship.

New Jersey Nets

Pluses: Some good young players. A new arena in Brooklyn in the works. Well-heeled new ownership in Russian Mikhail Prokhorov. James' friendship with Jay-Z, a Nets' part owner.

Minuses: It's the Nets, not the Knicks. It's not Manhattan. The Nets aren't close to winning.

Chicago Bulls

Pluses: Point guard Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. James grew up a Michael Jordan fan. He switched his number from 23 to 6 for next year in honor of Jordan.

Minuses: Not the kind of ownership James has enjoyed in Cleveland. Head coach unsettled. Living up to the Jordan legacy would be next to impossible.

Miami Heat

Pluses: The Heat have the flexibility to add another superstar. James could team up with Dwyane Wade, who has already won a title. A Hall of Fame coach, Pat Riley, is already in the organization. Florida is tax friendly for athletes. The weather can't be discounted.

Minuses: NBA rules only allow teams to play with one ball at a time. Who gets it with the game on the line, James or Wade? James is a better distributor of the basketball but James and Wade are too similar to truly complement each other.

Los Angeles Clippers

Pluses: They have cap flexibility. And talent.
Minuses: They're the Clippers. Donald Sterling is still their owner. James would play second fiddle to Kobe Bryant in L.A.

Bud Shaw is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who has also written for the Philadelphia Daily News, San Diego Union-Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The National. You can read his Plain Dealer columns at Cleveland.com, and read all his mental_floss articles here.

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25 Royals in the Line of Succession to the British Throne
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Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

Between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcoming their third child on April 23, 2018 and Prince Harry's upcoming marriage to Suits star Meghan Markle in May, the line of succession to the British throne has become a topic of interest all over the world. And the truth is, it’s complicated. Though Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 92 years old on April 21, shows no signs of slowing down, here are the royals who could one day take her place on the throne—in one very specific order.

1. PRINCE CHARLES

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

As a direct result of his mother being the world's longest-reigning monarch, Prince Charles—the eldest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip—is the longest serving heir to the throne; he became heir apparent in 1952, when his mother ascended to the throne.

2. PRINCE WILLIAM

Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty Images

At 35 years old, odds are good that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge—the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana—will ascend to the throne at some point in his lifetime.

3. PRINCE GEORGE 

RICHARD POHLE/AFP/Getty Images

On July 22, 2013, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their first child, Prince George of Cambridge, who jumped the line to step ahead of his uncle, Prince Harry, to become third in the line of succession.

4. PRINCESS CHARLOTTE 

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

On May 2, 2015, William and Catherine added another member to their growing brood: a daughter, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Though her parents just welcomed a bouncing baby boy, she will maintain the fourth-in-line position because of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which went into effect just a few weeks before her arrival, and removed a long-held rule which stated that any male sibling (regardless of birth order) would automatically move ahead of her.

5. PRINCE OF CAMBRIDGE

 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge depart the Lindo Wing with their newborn son at St Mary's Hospital on April 23, 2018 in London, England
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

On April 23, 2018, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their third child—a son, whose name has yet to be announced, but who has already pushed his uncle, Prince Harry, out of the fifth position in line to the throne.

6. PRINCE HARRY

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

As the second-born son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince Harry's place in the line is a regularly changing one. It changed earlier this week, when his brother William's third child arrived, and could change again if and when their family expands.

7. PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK

Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Prince Andrew is a perfect example of life before the Succession to the Crown Act 2013: Though he’s the second-born son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, he’s actually their third child (Princess Anne came between him and Prince Charles). But because the rules gave preference to males, Prince Andrew would inherit the throne before his older sister.

8. PRINCESS BEATRICE OF YORK

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WE

Because Prince Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, had two daughters and no sons, none of that male-preference primogeniture stuff mattered in terms of their placement. But with each child her cousin Prince William has, Princess Beatrice moves farther away from the throne. If Beatrice looks familiar, it might be because of the headlines she made with the Dr. Seuss-like hat she wore to William and Catherine’s wedding. (The infamous topper later sold on eBay for more than $130,000, all of which went to charity.)

9. PRINCESS EUGENIE OF YORK

Princess Eugenie of York arrives in the parade ring during Royal Ascot 2017 at Ascot Racecourse on June 20, 2017 in Ascot, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Though she’s regularly seen at royal events, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s youngest daughter spends the bulk of her time indulging her interest in fine art. She has held several jobs in the art world, and is currently a director at Hauser & Wirth’s London gallery.

10. PRINCE EDWARD, EARL OF WESSEX

 Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex leaves after a visit to Prince Philip
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Like his older brother Andrew, Prince Edward—the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip—jumps the line ahead of his older sister, Princess Anne, because of the older rule that put males ahead of females.

11. JAMES, VISCOUNT SEVERN

 James, Viscount Severn, rides on the fun fair carousel on day 4 of the Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 11, 2013 in Windsor, England
Danny E. Martindale/Getty Images

James, Viscount Severn—the younger of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex’s two children, and their only son—turned 10 years old on December 17, 2017, and celebrated it as the 10th royal in line of succession. (The birth of the youngest Prince of Cambridge pushed him back a spot.)

12. LADY LOUISE MOUNTBATTEN-WINDSOR

Lady Louise Windsor during the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony at Buckingham Palace on June 15, 2013 in London, England.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Because the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 wasn’t enacted until 2015, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor—the older of Prince Edward’s two children—will always be just behind her brother in the line of succession.

13. PRINCESS ANNE, THE PRINCESS ROYAL

Princess Anne, Princess Royal, visits the Hambleton Equine Clinic on October 10, 2017 in Stokesley, England
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Princess Anne, the Queen and Prince Philip’s second-born child and only daughter, may never rule over the throne in her lifetime, but at least she gets to be called “The Princess Royal.”

14. PETER PHILLIPS

Peter Phillips poses for a photo on The Mall
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The eldest child and only son of Princess Anne and her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, stands just behind his mother in line. Interesting fact: Had Phillips’s wife, Autumn Kelly, not converted from Roman Catholicism to the Church of England before their marriage in 2008, Phillips would have lost his place in line.

15. SAVANNAH PHILLIPS

Savannah Phillips attends a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

On December 29, 2010, Peter and Autumn Phillips celebrated the birth of their first child, Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips, who is also the Queen’s first great-grandchild. She’s currently 15th in line.

16. ISLA PHILLIPS

Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Isla Phillips and Peter Phillips attend a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Less than two years after Savannah, Peter and Autumn Phillips had a second daughter, Isla, who stands just behind her sister in line. It wasn’t until 2017 that Savannah and Isla made their Buckingham Palace balcony debut (in honor of their great-grandmother’s 91st birthday).

17. ZARA TINDALL

 Zara Tindall arrives for a reception at the Guildhall
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Not one to hide in the background, Zara Tindall—Princess Anne’s second child and only daughter—has lived much of her life in the spotlight. A celebrated equestrian, she won the Eventing World Championship in Aachen in 2006 and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year the same year (her mom earned the same title in 1971). She’s also Prince George’s godmother.

18. MIA TINDALL

Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Zara Tindall’s daughter Mia may just be 4 years old, but she’s already regularly making headlines for her outgoing personality. And though she’s only 18th in line to the throne, her connection to the tippity top of the royal family is much closer: Prince William is her godfather.

19. DAVID ARMSTRONG-JONES, 2ND EARL OF SNOWDON

David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon
HANNAH MCKAY/AFP/Getty Images

David Armstrong-Jones, the eldest child of Princess Margaret, isn’t waiting around to see if the British crown ever lands on his head. The 56-year-old, who goes by David Linley in his professional life, has made a name for himself as a talented furniture-maker. His bespoke pieces, sold under the brand name Linley, can be purchased through his own boutiques as well as at Harrods.

20. CHARLES ARMSTRONG-JONES, VISCOUNT LINLEY

Margarita Armstrong-Jones and Charles Patrick Inigo Armstrong-Jones
Chris Jackson-WPA Pool/Getty Images

David Armstrong-Jones’s only son, Charles, may be 20th in line to the throne, but the 18-year-old is the heir apparent to the Earldom of Snowdon.

21. LADY MARGARITA ARMSTRONG-JONES

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) talks with Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (C) as her father David Armstrong-Jones (L), 2nd Earl of Snowdon, known as David Linley
HANNAH MCKAY/AFP/Getty Images

Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, the youngest child of David Armstrong-Jones and his only daughter, is also the only granddaughter of Princess Margaret. Now 15 years old (she'll turn 16 in June), Lady Margarita made headlines around the world in 2011 when she served as a flower girl at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

22. LADY SARAH CHATTO

Lady Sarah Chatto, the daughter of Princess Margaret arrives for her mother's memorial service
STEPHEN HIRD/AFP/Getty Images

Lady Sarah Chatto, Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones’s only daughter, is the youngest grandchild of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. In addition to serving as a bridesmaid to Princess Diana, she is Prince Harry’s godmother.

23. SAMUEL CHATTO

Lady Sarah Chatto (L) and her son Samuel Chatto (R) leave a Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Lord Snowdon at Westminster Abbey on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom
Justin Tallis - WPA Pool /Getty Images

The first-born son of Lady Sarah Chatto and her husband, Daniel, has a long way to go to reach the throne: He’s currently 23rd in line.

24. ARTHUR CHATTO

Arthur Edwards, WPA Pool/Getty Images

For better or worse, Sarah and Daniel Chatto’s youngest son Arthur has become a bit of a social media sensation. He's made headlines recently as he regularly posts selfies to Instagram—some of them on the eyebrow-raising side, at least as far as royals go.

25. PRINCE RICHARD, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER

Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester makes a speech during the unveiling ceremony of London's first public memorial to the Korean War on December 3, 2014 in London, England
Carl Court/Getty Images

At 73 years old, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester is the youngest grandchild of King George V and Queen Mary. Formerly, he made a living as an architect, until the 1972 death of his brother, Prince William of Gloucester, put him next in line to inherit his father’s dukedom. On June 10, 1974, he officially succeeded his father as Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster, and Baron Culloden.

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Animals
20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins
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iStock

To celebrate World Penguin Day (which is today, April 25), here are a few fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds.

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

emperor penguin
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3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

Gentoo Penguin
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4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

penguins swimming in the ocean
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5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

emperor penguins
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6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

penguins swimming in the ocean
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7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

molting penguin
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8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to a thousand birds.

king penguins
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9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

chinstrap penguins
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10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

maegellic penguin nesting
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11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

penguin eggs
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12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

emperor penguins
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13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguins nest
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14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

penguin chicks
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15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

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