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taxon links [up-->]Eudyptes sclateri [up-->]Spheniscus mendiculus [up-->]Pygoscelis adeliae [up-->]Aptenodytes forsteri [up-->]Eudyptes pachyrhynchus [up-->]Aptenodytes patagonicus [up-->]Spheniscus demersus [up-->]Megadyptes antipodes [up-->]Eudyptes chrysocome [up-->]Pygoscelis antarcticus [up-->]Spheniscus humboldti [up-->]Eudyptula minor [up-->]Eudyptes chrysolophus [up-->]Spheniscus magellanicus [up-->]Pygoscelis papua [down<--]'Water Birds' Interpreting the tree
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This tree diagram shows the relationships between several groups of organisms.

The root of the current tree connects the organisms featured in this tree to their containing group and the rest of the Tree of Life. The basal branching point in the tree represents the ancestor of the other groups in the tree. This ancestor diversified over time into several descendent subgroups, which are represented as internal nodes and terminal taxa to the right.

example of a tree diagram

You can click on the root to travel down the Tree of Life all the way to the root of all Life, and you can click on the names of descendent subgroups to travel up the Tree of Life all the way to individual species.

For more information on ToL tree formatting, please see Interpreting the Tree or Classification. To learn more about phylogenetic trees, please visit our Phylogenetic Biology pages.

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Summary phylogenetic hypothesis based on the combined analysis of morphological, breeding, and mitochondrial DNA characters (Bertelli and Giannini, 2005).  All genera are clearly reciprocally monophyletic, however the root of the penguin tree is still unclear. The Snares Penguin, Eudyptes robustus, is now considered conspecific with the Fjordland Penguin, Eudyptes pachyrhynchus, and the Royal Penguin, Eudyptes schlegeli, is now considered conspecific with the Macaroni Penguin, Eudyptes chrysolophus (Christidis & Boles 2008).

Containing group: 'Water Birds'

Other Names for Spheniscidae


Baker, A. J., S. L. Pereira, O. P. Haddrath, and K.-A. Edge. 2006. Multiple gene evidence for expansion of extant penguins out of Antarctica due to global cooling. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 273(1582):11-17.

Bertelli, S., and N. P. Giannini. 2005. A phylogeny of extant penguins (Aves: Sphenisciformes) combining morphology and mitochondrial sequences. Cladistics 21: 209-239.

Christidis, L. and W. Boles. 2008. Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.

Clarke, J. A., E. B. Olivero, and P. Puerta. 2003. Description of the earliest fossil penguin from South America and first Paleogene vertebrate locality of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. American Museum Novitates 3423:1-18.

Dann, P., I. Norman, and P. Reilly, eds. 1995. The Penguins: Ecology and Management. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Sydney.

Davis, L. S. and J. Darby, eds. 1990. Penguin Biology. Academic Press, San Diego.

Giannini, N. P., and S. Bertelli. 2004. Phylogeny of extant penguins based on integumentary and breeding characters. The Auk 121: 422-434.

Gill, F. and M. Wright. 2006. Birds of the World: Recommended English Names. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

Grant, W. S., D. C. Duffy, and R. W. Leslie. 1994. Allozyme phylogeny of Spheniscus penguins. The Auk 111: 716-270.

Marchant, S. and P. J. Higgins, eds. 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol 1. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Müller-Schwarze, D. 1984. The behavior of penguins: adapted to ice and tropics. State University of New York Press, Albany.

Nelson, J. B. 2006. Pelicans, Cormorants, and Their Relatives: The Pelecaniformes. Bird Families of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York.

O’Hara, R. J. 1989. An estimate of the phylogeny of the living penguins (Aves: Spheniscidae). Am. Zool. 29, 11A.

Raikow, R. J., L. Bicanovsky, and A. H. Bledsoe. 1988. Forelimb joint mobility and the evolution of wing-propelled diving in birds. Auk 105:446-451.

Reilly, P. 1994. Penguins of the World. Oxford University Press.

Schreiweis, D. O. 1982. A comparative study of the appendicular musculature of penguins (Aves: Sphenisciformes). Smithsonian Contrib. Zool. 341:1-46.

Simpson, G. G. 1946. Fossil Penguins. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 87, 1–100.

Simpson, G. G. 1972. Conspectus of Patagonian fossil penguins. Am. Mus. Nov. 2488, 1–37.

Simpson, G. G. 1976. Penguins: Past and Present, Here and There. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Stonehouse, B. 1975. The biology of penguins. University Park Press, Baltimore.

Williams, T. D. 1995. The Penguins. Oxford University Press, New York.

Woehler, E. J. 1993. The Distribution and Abundance of Antarctic and Subantarctic Penguins. University Printing Services, Cambridge.

Zusi, R. L. 1975. An interpretation of skull structure in penguins. In: Stonehouse, B. (Ed.), The Biology of Penguins. University Park Press, Baltimore, MD, pp. 59–84.

Information on the Internet

Title Illustrations
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Scientific Name Pygoscelis adeliae
Location Antarctica
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
Source happy to see you
Source Collection Flickr
Image Use creative commons This media file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License - Version 2.0.
Copyright © 2005 robert bingham
Scientific Name Aptenodytes patagonicus
Location captive at Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium, Japan
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
Behavior diving
Source Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium
Source Collection Flickr
Image Use creative commons This media file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License - Version 2.0.
Copyright © 2005 Kanko
Scientific Name Eudyptes pachyrhynchus
Location Snares Islands, North East Island, Station Cove, New Zealand
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
Source Image:SnaresPenguin_(Mattern)_large.jpg
Source Collection Wikimedia Commons
Image Use creative commons This media file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License - Version 2.5.
Copyright © 2004 Thomas Mattern, Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
About This Page

Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Joseph W. Brown at

Page: Tree of Life Sphenisciformes. Spheniscidae. Penguins. The TEXT of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License - Version 3.0. Note that images and other media featured on this page are each governed by their own license, and they may or may not be available for reuse. Click on an image or a media link to access the media data window, which provides the relevant licensing information. For the general terms and conditions of ToL material reuse and redistribution, please see the Tree of Life Copyright Policies.

Citing this page:

Tree of Life Web Project. 2008. Sphenisciformes. Spheniscidae. Penguins. Version 22 August 2008 (temporary). http://tolweb.org/Spheniscidae/26387/2008.08.22 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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This page is a Tree of Life Branch Page.

Each ToL branch page provides a synopsis of the characteristics of a group of organisms representing a branch of the Tree of Life. The major distinction between a branch and a leaf of the Tree of Life is that each branch can be further subdivided into descendent branches, that is, subgroups representing distinct genetic lineages.

For a more detailed explanation of the different ToL page types, have a look at the Structure of the Tree of Life page.

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