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Brush-tailed penguins
Temporal range: Eocene to present
Manchot 01.jpg
Pygoscelis antarctica
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Sphenisciformes
Family: Spheniscidae
Genus: Pygoscelis
Wagler, 1832

Pygoscelis adeliae
Pygoscelis antarctica
Pygoscelis papua
Pygoscelis tyreei (fossil)
Pygoscelis calderensis (fossil)
Pygoscelis grandis (fossil)

The genus Pygoscelis ("rump-legged") contains three living species of penguins collectively known as "brush-tailed penguins".[1]


Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evidence suggests the genus split from other penguins around 38 million years ago, about 2 million years after the ancestors of the genus Aptenodytes. In turn, the Adelie penguins split off from the other members of the genus around 19 million years ago.[2]

Extant species
Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Adelie Penguin.jpg Pygoscelis adeliae Adélie penguin Antarctica
Chinstrap Penguin.jpg Pygoscelis antarctica Chinstrap penguin Antarctica, Argentina, Bouvet Island, Chile, the Falkland Islands, the French Southern Territories, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Gentoo Penguin at Cooper Bay, South Georgia.jpg Pygoscelis papua Gentoo penguin Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and Kerguelen Islands

A 2020 study found that the gentoo penguin may actually comprise a species complex of 4 similar but genetically distinct species: the northern gentoo penguin (P. papua), the southern gentoo penguin (P. ellsworthi), the eastern gentoo penguin (P. taeniata), and the newly-described South Georgia gentoo penguin (P. poncetii).[3][4]

Fossil species

The latter two are tentatively assigned to this genus.


  1. ^ "Pygoscelis". 2000. Archived from the original on 2010-05-01. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  2. ^ Baker AJ, Pereira SL, Haddrath OP, Edge KA (2006). "Multiple gene evidence for expansion of extant penguins out of Antarctica due to global cooling". Proc Biol Sci. 273 (1582): 11–17. doi:10.1098/rspb.2005.3260. PMC 1560011. PMID 16519228.
  3. ^ Tyler, Joshua; Bonfitto, Matthew T.; Clucas, Gemma V.; Reddy, Sushma; Younger, Jane L. (2020). "Morphometric and genetic evidence for four species of gentoo penguin". Ecology and Evolution. 10 (24): 13836–13846. doi:10.1002/ece3.6973. ISSN 2045-7758. PMC 7771148.
  4. ^ Pertierra, Luis R.; Segovia, Nicolás I.; Noll, Daly; Martinez, Pablo A.; Pliscoff, Patricio; Barbosa, Andrés; Aragón, Pedro; Rey, Andrea Raya; Pistorius, Pierre; Trathan, Phil; Polanowski, Andrea (2020). "Cryptic speciation in gentoo penguins is driven by geographic isolation and regional marine conditions: Unforeseen vulnerabilities to global change". Diversity and Distributions. 26 (8): 958–975. doi:10.1111/ddi.13072. ISSN 1472-4642.