The Tux Don’t Make the Man

Sure he looks happy. But you don’t know what he could have done to a chick to feel this thrilled.

“The pamphlet, declined for publication with the official Scott expedition reports, commented on the frequency of sexual activity, auto-erotic behaviour, and seemingly aberrant behaviour of young unpaired males and females, including necrophilia, sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks and homosexual behaviour…”

Just when you think this is some stuffy, judgmental colonial British lord passing judgement on the native subject in some spot in Britannia’s empire, turns out that this is actually about penguins. George Murray Levick went all the way to Antarctica back in 1910. He was observing a colony of Adelie penguins and because this was Edwardian England, he published his findings in a pamphlet that had extremely limited circulation and was recently rediscovered. The Adelie penguin was discovered by some French explorer who named them after his wife. Considering how these chaps behave with the females of their species, this is terribly ironic.

Levick was probably particularly traumatised by the dodgy sexual antics because to him, like to all of us who have cooed at films like Happy Feet and March of the Penguins, the bird looked vaguely like a cute little dude in a tux; the epitome of gentlemanliness.  However, male Adelie penguins are rather bastardly and it seems their behaviour hasn’t improved much over half a century. However, now there is more of an effort made to understand their psychology, as the Guardian article shows:

“They have only a few weeks to do that [figure out how to breed with females of the species] and young adults simply have no experience of how to behave. Many respond to inappropriate cues. Hence the seeming depravity of their behaviour.”

Which, as wrong as this may sound, does a fairly good job of explaining the psychology of the average young Indian male. Though, even at my man-hating best, I’ll allow that the following is perhaps a little more extreme than what the sons of our soil generally do.

“For example, a dead penguin, lying with its eyes half-open, is very similar in appearance to a compliant female. The result is the so-called necrophilia….”

Indian men aside, what makes Levick’s pamphlet particularly fantastic is comparing it to what others from the same expedition wrote about Adelie penguins. (At least I think it’s the same expedition.)

Robert Falcon Scott:

“They waddle forward, poking their heads to and fro in their usually absurd way, in spite of a string of howling dogs straining to get at them. ‘Hulloa!’ they seem to say, ‘here’s a game – what do all you ridiculous things want?’”

Apsley Cherry-Garrard (Who named these men? He should be glad he’s not a penguin. I doubt these rapey male Adelies would have let a chap named Cherry go past unscathed):

“They are extraordinarily like children, these little people of the Antarctic world, either like children or like old men, full of their own importance…”

It’s like the Adelie are the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde of penguins.

To read the Guardian article, click here.

One thought on “The Tux Don’t Make the Man”

  1. Apsley Cherry-Garrard! My god. That’s as bad as Cholmondeley Warner Featherstonehaugh. Or as good depending on your point of view. These penguins know how to have a good time.

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