Polar Record

Research Article

Dr. George Murray Levick (1876–1956): unpublished notes on the sexual habits of the Adélie penguin

Douglas G.D. Russella1, William J.L. Sladena2 and David G. Ainleya3

a1 Bird Group, Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum, Akeman Street, Tring, HP23 6AP (d.russell@nhm.ac.uk)

a2 Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, c/o PO Box 3014, Warrenton, VA 20188, USA.

a3 H.T. Harvey & Associates, 983 University Avenue, Los Gatos, CA 95032 USA.


A previously unpublished four-page pamphlet by Dr. George Murray Levick R.N. (1876–1956) on the ‘Sexual habits of the Adélie penguin’ was recently rediscovered at the Natural History Museum (NHM) at Tring. It was printed in 1915 but declined for publication with the official expedition reports. The account, based upon Levick's detailed field observations at Cape Adare (71°18′S, 170°09′E) during the course of the British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910, commented on frequency of sexual activity, autoerotic behaviour, and seemingly aberrant behaviour of young unpaired males and females including necrophilia, sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks, non-procreative sex and homosexual behaviour. His observations were however accurate, valid and, with the benefit of hindsight, deserving of publication. Here we publish the pamphlet in its entirety, reinterpret selected observations and comment on its significance as a forgotten work by the pioneer of research on Adélie penguin Pygoscelis adeliae (Hombron and Jacquinot 1841) biology.

(Received January 2012)

(Online publication May 22 2012)