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12 Perfectly Arranged Facts About Designing Women

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Determined to use television as a tool for social change, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason developed Designing Women partly with the purpose of creating a television series that featured intelligent women who were both sassy and sympathetic and who expressed differing views on women’s issues and other topics of discussion that came across her soapbox. Almost 30 years after its initial debut, here are some facts about the Emmy Award-winning series.

1. NONE OF THE LEAD ACTRESSES HAD TO AUDITION FOR THEIR ROLES.

When Linda Bloodworth-Thomason decided to create a show about four intelligent, sassy Southern women, she had Delta Burke, Dixie Carter, Jean Smart, and Annie Potts in mind from the start. She’d previously worked with Burke and Carter on a short-lived series called Filthy Rich, and Smart and Potts had guest-starred together on an episode of the Robert Wagner series Lime Street. Of the four, only Jean Smart was not a native Southerner; she was born and raised in Seattle.

2. ANTHONY BOUVIER WAS NOT INTENDED TO BE A REGULAR CHARACTER.

Anthony Bouvier was originally supposed to make a one-time appearance in the sixth episode of season one. The script for the episode wasn’t yet complete when Meshach Taylor auditioned, so instead he was instructed to improvise with the other cast members. The producers were so impressed with the chemistry between Taylor and the four female stars that Anthony became a recurring character, and then a series regular. Taylor was the first cast member to be nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on the show.

3. A LETTER-WRITING CAMPAIGN SAVED THE SHOW FROM CANCELLATION.

Midway through season one, CBS moved Designing Women from its Monday night time slot to Thursday, directly opposite NBC’s Night Court. The show plummeted to number 65 in the Nielsen ratings and was put on hiatus, which was network code for “this is close to being cancelled.” Executive producer Harry Thomason contacted a grassroots organization called Viewers for Quality Television (VQT) to enlist the assistance of their membership. A letter-writing campaign was launched, with viewers encouraged to write letters of protest to CBS president Bud Grant as well as to major TV journalists and critics. All told, CBS received an estimated 50,000 letters in support of Designing Women. The series’ stars appeared on an episode of Entertainment Tonight to discuss the campaign and encourage viewers to support them. Obviously, the strategy paid off; the show was not only renewed, it was also moved back to Monday nights.

4. DIXIE CARTER HAD SOME “DESIGN” WORK OF HER OWN DONE AFTER THE FIRST SEASON.

Dixie Carter was 47 years old when Designing Women debuted in 1986. Keen-eyed fans probably noticed a slight difference in Julia Sugarbaker’s appearance between seasons one and two. That’s because after Carter watched the screening of the pilot episode she thought, “If this turns out to be my first big success, after all these years of performing, I couldn't bear to be identified as ‘the older one.’”

5. SADLY, “KILLING ALL THE RIGHT PEOPLE” WAS BASED ON A REAL-LIFE EXPERIENCE.

The title of the Emmy-nominated season two episode was inspired by an actual quote series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason overheard in a hospital corridor. In late 1986 her mother was dying of AIDS following a contaminated blood transfusion, and Thomason kept a vigil at her bedside while simultaneously writing the early scripts for Designing Women. She was indignant at the ignorance of many of the medical personnel (some nurses refused to touch the AIDS patients and instead placed their medication in a bucket and kicked it into their rooms) and it saddened her that so many of the patients were dying alone in their rooms with even family members afraid to get too close. She put pen to paper when she heard a woman in the hallway confiding to a companion, “If you ask me, this disease has one thing going for it. It’s killing all the right people.”

6. DIXIE CARTER FELT UNEASY DELIVERING MANY OF HER FAMOUS RANTS.

Julia Sugarbaker was a staunch liberal who never hesitated to launch into one of her trademark Terminator Tirades if someone got her dander up. Dixie Carter, however, was a registered Republican who sometimes felt a little uncomfortable with Julia’s politics. She reached a compromise with Harry and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason: for every instance where Julia was required to spout off on a Thomason pet topic, Carter (who’d had years of professional vocal training) would get to sing a song in a later episode.

7. ANNIE POTTS HAD TO HIDE HER PREGNANCY.

The actress was in a family way during season six but the producers decided that they didn't want her character, Mary Jo, to be a single mom. So Annie had to spend much of that season hidden behind furniture or oversized shirts. There was a brief attempt at a pregnancy plot—with Mary Jo longing for a baby and visiting a sperm bank—but the writers had already gone the motherhood route not too long before with Charlene. Besides, Murphy Brown (which aired in the time slot just prior to Designing Women on Monday nights) was raising all sorts of hackles with her impending maternity, and the Thomasons didn’t want to seem like they were hopping aboard the single motherhood bandwagon as an attempt to leech off of some of Candice Bergen’s publicity.

8. JULIA SUGARBAKER AND REESE WATSON WERE MARRIED IN REAL LIFE.

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Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook were married in 1984, the third time down the aisle for both. He turned down the role of Julia’s beau, attorney Reese Watson, several times until Bloodworth-Thomason asked him, “Do you really want some other man making love to your wife on television?"

9. SUZANNE SUGARBAKER AND DASH GOFF WERE ALSO MARRIED … EVENTUALLY.

Gerald McRaney edged out John Ritter to win the role of Suzanne Sugarbaker’s first ex-husband, writer Dash Goff. There was an immediate attraction between the actors when they first met at a publicists’ lunch in 1987, which only strengthened when he was cast on the show. One scene called for the pair to kiss, and the two were inseparable afterward. They were married in 1989 in an elaborate ceremony in front of 400 guests, with Dixie Carter serving as Burke’s matron of honor.

10. CHARLENE AND BILL WERE NOT A REAL-LIFE COUPLE, BUT CHARLENE AND J.D. WERE.

Richard Gilliland was cast in a recurring role as Mary Jo’s boyfriend, J.D. Shackleford, in season one. But it was Jean Smart who sat across from Gilliland during the first table read and decided that she needed to get to know him better. “I asked Delta to find out if he was married,” Smart recalled to Ladies Home Journal in 1990. “Naturally, Delta walked up to him and blurted, ‘Jean wants to know if you're married.’” Smart invited him to her dressing room to help her with a crossword puzzle, and in June 1987 the couple tied the knot (in the garden of Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter’s Brentwood home).

Even though they were now married in real life, on TV Gilliland was still paired with Annie Potts' Mary Jo, and Smart's Charlene eventually married Air Force Colonel Bill Stillfield (played by Douglas Barr). All four of the men appeared with their onscreen better halves in just one episode, season two’s “Reservations for Eight.”

11. DELTA BURKE CLAIMED THAT SHE WAS BEING TERRORIZED ON THE SET.

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In 1990, Delta Burke appeared on a Barbara Walters special without alerting the Designing Women producers. During the interview she stated that the set was not a happy one, and accused the Thomasons of “terrorizing” and “manipulating” her. She claimed that Harry Thomason once locked her and her co-stars in a room and screamed at them (no other cast member corroborated this story). She also expressed her sadness that her friend Dixie Carter had sided with the producers.

Burke started showing up late or not at all during season five and the cast was forced to learn two versions of each script—one with Suzanne, and one without Suzanne. At the end of the season, Harry Thomason asked the cast to vote on whether or not they’d like to continue working with Burke. The result of the vote was that Burke was released from her contract.

12. 227’S JACKÉE HARRY WAS CONSIDERED AS A REPLACEMENT FOR BURKE.

Season six started out with two new cast members, since Jean Smart had decided that she’d had enough of the sitcom format and work schedule and wanted to spend some time at home with her infant son. Julia Duffy (Newhart) was cast as Allison Sugarbaker and Jan Hooks (Saturday Night Live) was brought in as Charlene’s sister (and replacement) Carlene.

Bloodworth-Thomason stated to TV Guide at the time that, “There are only a handful of actresses who can pull off being whiny and petulant and self-centered and still be liked by the audience, and Julia Duffy has that quality.” Unfortunately, the writers tried too hard to make Allison different from Suzanne, and they never quite got the “likeable” part of her character down pat. Duffy’s contract was not renewed at the end of the season.

Jackée Harry made a guest appearance as Anthony’s fiancée in the season six cliffhanger finale, with the plan that her character would buy into Sugarbaker’s and become a series regular. But it was decided that her personality was too over-the-top and that idea was scrapped.

Additional sources:
Close-Ups: Conversations with Our TV Favorites by Eddie Lucas, Pub. by BearManor Media

Trying to Get to Heaven by Dixie Carter

Delta Style by Delta Burke

Entertainment Tonight Presents The Real Designing Women (2000 TV Special)
 
"Delta Burkes Escalates Was with Designing Women Brass on Weighty Issues," Baltimore Sun, November 14. 1990

"Burke at the Top, Trying to Change," Orlando Sentinel, August 2, 1990

"Delta Burke Bad-Mouths Bosses—Again," Sun Sentinel, November 14, 1990

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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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