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Members of the extant genus, Spheniscus, are known as the banded penguins, because of the band of black coloration that runs around their bodies. The genus name literally means "wedge-shaped". The four extant species are similar in color pattern and are known as "jackass" penguins because they emit loud calls to locate each other that resemble the bray of a donkey (Stefoff, 2005).
A common coloration theme unites the extant species such as, distinct spots on their abdomens, a small vertical stripe upon their back and a small patch of lightly feathered or nude patch of skin around its eyes that has a pink or whitish coloration (Stefoff, 2005).
The genus Spheniscus, both extant and extinct, is not found anywhere along the Antarctic coasts. All but one of the extant species of Spheniscus inhabit temperate climates, which include South Africa and the southern coastal areas of Argentina and Chile. The Galápagos penguin (Spheniscus meniculus) is found on along the coasts of the Galapagos Islands and inhabits one of the most northern extents of the globe occupied by any penguin species (Stefoff, 2005).
All species of penguin within the genus Spheniscus raise their young in burrows (Stefoff, 2005).
The genus Spheniscus (banded penguins) is comprised today of four extant species: Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus), Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti), Galápagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) and the African penguin, black-footed or jackass penguin (Spheniscus demersus) (Stefoff, 2005).
The genus Spheniscus (banded penguins) also presently contains four known extinct species, which include three from the Late Miocene to the Early Pliocene (3.6 -11.6 Ma) of the central Andean coast (Spheniscus chilensis, Spheniscus megaramphus, Spheniscus urbinai) and the oldest known member of the genus is from the Middle to Late Miocene (11–13 Ma) of Cerro La Bruja, Peru (Spheniscus muizoni) (Gohlich, 2007; Ksepka & Clarke, 2010).