I am an elementary school teacher in the United States and my students have a question after reading a trade book about the parenting habits of Emperor penguins.  If the male loses the egg, either by dropping or breaking, what does he do?  Does he go ahead to the feeding areas to eat or does he replace the egg and/or continue his vigil with the other fathers?

I suggest you watch the march of the penguins with your class. Once the egg is broken there is no possible replacement - the females have already left.

Sometimes male penguins will pick up a stone and continue to act as though they have an egg.

The male's commitment and energy needed to protect his one egg is huge. Therefore, the pull to stay with it is incredibly strong. However, like with other birds that lose a mate or have their eggs/chicks predated, the urge to stay with an egg that has moved onto the ice lessens over time and gradually the bird would probably leave to feed. The behaviour of incubating a stone if an egg is lost is also a result of the strong urge to provide warmth to an egg-shaped object.

Last edited by Ed Drewitt (21st May 2008 14:01:48)