Well, maybe not so much. But in 1915, when Dr George Levick wrote up his findings on the sexual habits of the Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) on Cape Adare in Antarctica, he couldn’t help but filter those findings through the mores of the time:
He was so shocked by what he saw he even wrote in Greek to disguise the information. ‘There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins,’ he wrote.
Levick described ‘little knots of hooligans’, penguins that hung around the outskirts of the colony, terrorising any chicks that went astray. He wrote, ‘The crimes which they commit are such as to find no place in this book, but it is interesting indeed to note that, when nature intends them to find employment, these birds, like men, degenerate in idleness.’
He observed and commented on the frequency of Adélie penguin sexual activity, autoerotic behaviour, the behaviour of young unpaired males and females including necrophilia, sexual coercion, the sexual and physical abuse of chicks, non-procreative sex and homosexual behaviour.
Or, as it’s called in 2012, “Saturday night.” Except maybe for the necrophilia, and eventually we found out that technically that’s really not what it was: they’re not actually into dead chicks, but apparently they don’t check for life signs before approaching. Bird motivations and human motivations don’t necessarily coincide.
Dr Levick’s report was not published with other studies from the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition, though more generic observations made it to his book Antarctic Penguins: a study of their social habits (New York: McBride Nast & Co., 1914). The report has now been published in the journal Polar Record at Cambridge, and it will cost you to read it.
(Via this syaffolee tweet.)