Sep 16, 2021 I Paul Seaburn

Are Gentoo Penguins Aliens? A Chemical in Their Guano May Prove It

There is no doubt that octopuses are one of the strangest creatures on Earth – so strange and intelligent for deep-sea cephalopod that some serious scientists have suggested they might be aliens. There is no doubt that flightless yet aquatic penguins are one of the strangest birds on the planet … you see where this is going. Scientists studying gentoo penguins have discovered that they produce a chemical recently detected on Venus and they’re wondering … could penguins have migrated to Earth from its cloudy neighbor or another planet?

“We’re convinced the phosphine finding is real. But we don’t know what’s making it.”

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Do I look like an alien to you?

Dr. David Clements, a Natural Science and Physics professor at Imperial College London, says in The Daily Star that phosphine, an extremely flammable and toxic gas compound with the chemical formula PH3 that was recently detected on Venus, has been found in the feces of gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua), a species found primarily in the Falkland Islands and most known for their loud trumpeting sounds which they make with their heads thrown back like a marching band horn player. You may recall that astronomers in Hawaii and Chile detected the chemical signature of phosphine high in the atmosphere of Venus in September 2020 – a potential “this changes everything” find because phosphine on Earth is only associated with life forms. Dr. David Clements was also involved with that research and cautioned at the time:

“It’s not a smoking gun. It’s not even gunshot residue on the hands of your prime suspect, but there is a distinct whiff of cordite in the air which may be suggesting something.”

It may not have been a smoking gun – and other scientists agreed that the phosphine on Venus could have been generated by a chemical process – but that hasn’t stopped Clements and others from continuing to study gentoo guano for hints into how gentoos create the unusual chemical ... not to mention how they survive making and excreting it other than staying away from matches and open flames. The Daily Star is not considered to be a scientific journal but it appears to be the primary source reporting on this research, which it notes is connected to the upcoming December launch of the James Webb telescope which will expand by magnitudes our ability to search for life in the galaxy. Does this mean astronomers will be looking for extraterrestrial gentoo penguins?

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A sign of extraterrestrial gentoo penguins?

“There are some anaerobic bacteria that produce phosphine. It’s found in pond slime and the guts of badgers and penguin guano.”

That’s right – the first extraterrestrial life future space explorers may encounter on planets or moons showing phosphine are gentoo penguins, badgers and pond slime … or their alien counterparts.

Is it too soon to start training astronauts how to play the trumpet?

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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