The Phillip Island penguin parade (a mathematical treatment)

Serena Dipierro, Luca Lombardini, Pietro Miraglio, Enrico Valdinoci


Penguins are flightless, so they are forced to walk while on land. In particular, they show rather specific behaviours in their homecoming, which are interesting to observe and to describe analytically. We observed that penguins have the tendency to waddle back and forth on the shore to create a sufficiently large group, and then walk home compactly together. The mathematical framework that we introduce describes this phenomenon, by taking into account “natural parameters”, such as the eyesight of the penguins and their cruising speed. The model that we propose favours the formation of conglomerates of penguins that gather together, but, on the other hand, it also allows the possibility of isolated and exposed individuals.

The model that we propose is based on a set of ordinary differential equations. Due to the discontinuous behaviour of the speed of the penguins, the mathematical treatment (to get existence and uniqueness of the solution) is based on a “stop-and-go” procedure. We use this setting to provide rigorous examples in which at least some penguins manage to safely return home (there are also cases in which some penguins remain isolated). To facilitate the intuition of the model, we also present some simple numerical simulations that can be compared with the actual movement of the penguin parade.



population dynamics, Eudyptula minor, Phillip Island, mathematical models.


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ANZIAM Journal, ISSN 1446-8735, copyright Australian Mathematical Society.