Penguins make friends with each other and team up when they go on fishing trips, research has revealed.
Little penguins, the smallest penguin species, have been observed crossing the beach in groups of about five to ten as they go on long trips to find food for their chicks.
It is thought this grouping makes them less vulnerable to attacks from predators, but researchers led by Andre Chiaradia of the Philip Island Nature Park in Australia decided to see whether the penguins seek to choose particular fishing partners.
They recorded arrivals and departures of little penguins over four consecutive breeding seasons and were able to identify the birds using a microchip placed under the skin.
According to the New Scientist, they found that middle-aged animals did tend to team up with the same penguins on different trips.
They propose that grouping together with friends could be because they help to share knowledge about particular feeding sites.
However when fish were less scarce the birds were not so keen to fish with friends, suggesting they wanted to fish alone to avoid sharing food.
Older and younger penguins, which are less likely to be good fishers, were never picked to be part of the team.