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8 Trail-Blazing Female Firsts In Sports

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Last week, ESPN announced that Jessica Mendoza would serve as one of their full-time Sunday Night Baseball analysts for the 2016 season. The former Olympic softball player made headlines last October as the first broadcaster of a nationally televised postseason game when she called the wild card contest between the Yankees and Astros.

Although athletics are anything but fully integrated, there are fewer and fewer glass ceilings left to be broken as pioneers like Mendoza get their due. Take a look at a few historic female firsts across the sporting spectrum.

1. HELENE HATHAWAY ROBISON BRITTON // FIRST FEMALE MLB TEAM OWNER

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In 1912, Britton inherited a controlling interest in the St. Louis Cardinals from her uncle, who, along with her father, was responsible for the St. Louis Browns becoming the Cardinals. She took on the role of team president, as well, after divorcing the previous president, Schuyler P. Britton, in 1917. She is credited with being one of the first owners to host “Ladies Days” at the ballparks, but there is little record of how involved she was with the day-to-day operations of the franchise.

“Being a woman owner of a baseball club was difficult at first,” she is quoted as having said [PDF]. “It was also new to me, even though I had heard and talked baseball all my life. I loved it, though." Britton also said she regretted selling the team in 1918.

2. JOAN WHITNEY PAYSON // FIRST WOMAN TO FOUND AN MLB TEAM

With all due respect to Mrs. Britton, this is not quite as minor a distinction as it may seem. Payson's lifelong involvement in the game was personally motivated (even if funded by her family’s considerable wealth). In the 1950s, she started buying shares of the New York Giants. When the owners were debating on whether to move the team west in 1957, she and her ally M. Donald Grant led the charge to keep them in New York. After the Giants relocated to California, she was approached about purchasing a team for a possible third baseball league. Ultimately the proposed Continental League fizzled, but when New York was offered a National League expansion team, Payson ended up owning 80 percent of the stake.

The shareholders all gathered in her Manhattan apartment to name the team. And although Payson herself preferred the “Meadowlarks,” it was at this meeting that the Mets were born. For the rest of her life, Payson was both an active owner and a dedicated fan of the team. When she couldn’t be at games—which she watched from a box just behind first base—she carried a portable radio with her, even hiding it in her purse at high society events. She kept score so meticulously that she taught her chauffeur her specific technique so that he could fill out scorecards and airmail them to her when she couldn’t be at the game. Players loved her, especially when the Mets grew from the laughingstock of the NL in the early ‘60s to World Champions in ’69. And, just a few years before her death, she succeeded in bringing her favorite player from the Giants's New York era—Willie Mays—back to the city in a Mets uniform.

3. NANCY LIEBERMAN // FIRST WOMAN TO COACH A MEN'S PRO BASKETBALL TEAM

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Lieberman has earned a lot of “firsts” in her long and illustrious basketball career. She was on the U.S. team for the Olympics’ first-ever Women's Basketball tournament at the 1976 Montreal games (for which she and the team took home silver medals). She became the first woman to play pro basketball with men when she joined the now-defunct United States Basketball League in 1986. And when she was hired as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends, in 2009, she not only became the first woman head coach of a men’s pro basketball team, she became the first woman to coach a men’s pro team in any sport.

"In 1986, my goal was not to be a girl playing in a men's league, it was to be a player in a men's league," she said at the time. "In 2010, I don't want to be a woman who is coaching men, I want to be a coach who is coaching."

From head coach she transitioned to assistant GM of the Texas Legends. Just this past summer, she broke into the NBA as the assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings—the second woman to serve as a full-time assistant coach in the league, after Becky Hammon broke through in 2014. 

4. SARAH THOMAS // FIRST FULL-TIME FEMALE NFL REFEREE

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Thomas, who was hired as part of referee Pete Morelli’s crew at the start of this season, has to have an asterisk next to her “first.” In 2012, Shannon Eastin became the first woman to officiate an NFL game—but her opportunity came when a failure to reach a collective bargaining agreement forced a lockout of the league’s regular referees and she was ousted from her role once the strike was over. Thomas, on the other hand, was discovered by an NFL scout after 16 years of officiating grade school, high school, and college football games.

"When I got started in this 17 years ago, I had no idea that there weren't any females officiating," Thomas said in 2013 when she was still among the 21 finalists in the NFL officiating development program. "I never set out to become the first female official in the NFL."

5. MICHELE ROBERTS // FIRST WOMAN TO LEAD A MAJOR PROFESSIONAL-SPORTS UNION

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The former public defender and Washington D.C. litigator was elected executive director of the National Basketball Players Association in 2014 almost unanimously. And almost immediately, she began making waves for her frank criticisms of league business staples like the salary cap—which she calls “un-American.”

She’s loved basketball since her humble beginnings in a South Bronx housing project. But it’s her legal expertise that got her the job—Washingtonian magazine called her the “finest pure trial lawyer in Washington”—and the 400-plus players she represents are hoping she’ll be able to broker a deal more favorable to their interests than the one her predecessor struck to end the 2011 lockout. She’ll get a chance to prove herself when the current labor agreement expires in 2017, but until then, she’s making a name for herself as an outspoken trailblazer. When presenting her candidacy to the NBA players, she assured them that her "past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”

6. GAYLE SIERENS // FIRST WOMAN TO CALL PLAY-BY-PLAY IN THE NFL

In 1987, NBC executive Michael Weisman offered Sierens, an anchor for the Tampa NBC affiliate, the chance to make history as the first woman to call play-by-play for an NFL game. It was pretty clearly a publicity stunt—Weisman had also experimented with an announcer-less game a few years prior, though he denied this move was for publicity, citing the timing didn't make sense for that—but Sierens rose to the challenge. She spent months training during the preseason with legendary broadcaster Marty Glickman in preparation for the big game, and although the December 27 showdown between the Seahawks and Chiefs was unmemorable on the field, Sierens excelled on the broadcast. Her performance earned an invite back to call six games the following season in 1988. But the same year as the big game, Sierens had gotten married and gotten pregnant. Plus, her Tampa day job didn’t appreciate major sporting assignments calling her away. So Sierens had to choose whether to stay on with Channel 8 in Florida or else pursue broadcasting with the NFL. She turned down the chance to do more play-by-play and went on to have a long career in Tampa and almost no regrets.

"What I do have," she said after retiring, "are what-ifs." Since that game in 1987, no other woman had called play-by-play for the NFL until a preseason game in 2015, but before Beth Mowins became the second female announcer, Sierens worried that she missed her chance to break open that barrier.

"I don't know why a woman hasn't been able to break into that. It’s sad for me. It's sad that it didn't happen sooner. I hope that my performance was good enough that it merited other women being given the chance. But maybe it wasn't. Maybe everybody thought it was fun and cute and a great idea, but that's not really how we want to hear our games. I don't know. I may never know the answer to that. But I surely hope that someone soon gets an opportunity."

7. MANON RHÉAUME // FIRST WOMAN TO PLAY IN AN NHL EXHIBITION GAME

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Then-20-year-old Rhéaume didn’t care that her invite to an NHL training camp in 1992 was largely a publicity stunt to aid the brand new Tampa Bay Lightning. As the first woman to play for a Junior A men’s hockey game in Canada the year before, she knew she had real talent, and was eager for any opportunity to play at a higher level.

“A lot of people said that was just a publicity thing,” Rhéaume recalled last year. "But I had to wake up and face those shots every single day."

On September 23 she played one period as goalie in a preseason game against the St. Louis Blues, allowing two goals on nine shots. The following year, Tampa Bay invited her back for another exhibition game, this time against the Boston Bruins, in which she once again allowed two goals over one period.

She parlayed that experience into five years in the now-defunct International Hockey League, becoming the first woman to play in a regular season professional game along the way. These days, she’s consulting on a biopic about her career.

8. ROBIN HERMAN // FIRST FEMALE SPORTS REPORTER IN A LOCKER ROOM

The debate about women in male locker rooms still rages on to this day. But it all started 40 years ago when Robin Herman, a 23-year-old reporter for The New York Times who had already been part of women’s history as a graduate of Princeton’s first female class, finally convinced the NHL to let her and other female reporters into the locker room for post-game interviews. The first concessions came at the 1975 All-Star Game in Montreal. Herman and Montreal radio reporter Marcel St. Cyr stole the show when they entered the locker room following the game.

"I kept saying, 'I’m not the story; the game is the story,'" Herman recalled in 2010. "But of course that wasn’t the case. The game was boring. A girl in the locker room was a story."

The All-Star Game didn’t change Herman’s experience on the hockey beat overnight. Later that same season, she wrote an article for the Times [PDF] reflecting on having been turned away for interviews, even in the wake of that historic entry. Even the Rangers—one of the teams she’d interviewed in their locker rooms following the All-Star Game—had put the issue to a vote at the demand of the athletes' wives. They voted against female reporters in the locker room.

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25 Royals in the Line of Succession to the British Throne
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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

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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

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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 

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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 

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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
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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

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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

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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

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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

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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
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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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20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins
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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.

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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.

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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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