In 1807 Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville failed the physical test to get into the Ecole Polytechnique and was soon esconced in that bunch of ne’er do wells… the French Navy. There the legendarily unhygienic sailor rose through the ranks and sailed the Seven Seas. His career was illustrious, most notably his discovery of the famous Venus de Milo statue in the Greek Cyclades. Years later the fragrant Frenchman set foot in the Antarctic. There he set eyes on a rather sweet and diminutive penguin and promptly decided to name it after his wife; Adelie. Sadly for Dumont this rather romantic gesture was about as successful as a French naval campaign… as it turned out that the female adelie penguin was a trollop.
The adelie penguins live on the Antarctic beaches, where once every couple of years unseasonably warm weather hits. This would of course be good news on most beaches but the icy plains that the penguins call home are subject to floods, the warm spell melts the ice and the whole place is awash with mud and guano. Not the ideal environment for bringing up junior.
So how does this turn a penguin into a harlot I hear you cry? Bear with me good reader, you see the adelie have found a way of keeping their seed in good shape by building stony nests to elevate their egg. These stones are not that plentiful, so there are some mighty squabbles over them. The stronger males eventually take the most pebbles and build the best nests.
When the female adelie return from the better part of the year at sea, they will choose a mate and soon steer towards the strong provider penguin who has proved himself by building up a good tall nest … but that’s not the end of the story. As we have said the female adelie penguin is quite the strumpet. It seems that as soon as hubby’s back is turned she is getting rather game with the neighbours, those males who haven’t had any success at finding a mate.
In return for a frolic with a filly the bachelor penguins are rather happy to pay… the princely sum of one pebble. The adelie penguins are the only example of prostitution in all of the birds. In fact, some of the more amorous female adelies have been observed prostituting themselves over 62 times in a breeding season.
Of course there is no record of Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville’s wife Adelie Dumont being anything like her penguin namesakes, though it has been noted by more than one learned gentleman that she was of French origin.