WIAS Preprint No. 2342, (2016)

The Phillip Island penguin parade (a mathematical treatment)


  • Dipierro, Serena
  • Lombardini, Luca
  • Miraglio, Pietro
  • Valdinoci, Enrico
    ORCID: 0000-0001-6222-2272

2010 Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 92B05 92B25 37N25


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




We present a simple mathematical formulation to describe the little penguins parade in Phillip Island. 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 sight of the penguins, their cruising speed and the possible "fear" of animals. On the one hand, this favors the formation of rafts of penguins but, on the other hand, this may lead to the panic of isolated and exposed individuals. The model that we propose is based on a set of ordinary differential equations. Due to the discontinuous behavior of the speed of the penguins, the mathematical treatment (to get existence and uniqueness of the solution) is based on a ßtop-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 freeze due to panic). To facilitate the intuition of the model, we also present some simple numerical simulations that can be compared with the actual movement of the penguins parade.

Appeared in

  • The ANZIAM Journal, published online on August 8, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1017/S1446181118000147.

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