The "perverted" sex life of penguins - necrophilia, homosexuality and chick abuse - was so shocking to Edwardians the medical findings were written in Greek and buried in research for a century.
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"There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins," British surgeon George Levick wrote in his 1915 study The Sexual Habits of the Adélie Penguins.
The research, uncovered by National History Museum's bird curator in London, included descriptions of "hooligan" behaviour including sexual coercion, physical abuse of chicks, and non-procreative sex.
Hundreds of thousands of penguins summered in Cape Adare, and Dr Levick, an avid biologist, had the good fortune to be appointed medical officer on the1910-1913 British arctic expedition Terra Nova, led by Captain Scott.
Dr Levick's descriptions of what he saw were so graphic, however, that his four-page pamphlet was not published with the Terra Nova research. Instead it was buried in the collection and only recently discovered.
Dr Levick (pictured, above) could not help but interpret penguin behaviour in the context of human, moral terms of the early 1900s. His Greek-language descriptions note "little knots" of penguins hanging around the outskirts of the colony terrorising other birds and chicks that went astray.
"The crimes which they commit as such as to find no place in this book, but it is interesting indeed to note that, when nature intends them to find employment these birds, like men, degenerate in idleness," he wrote.
Dr Levick recorded the frequency of Adélie penguin sex at the South Pole, autoerotic behaviour, the behaviour of young unpaired males and females that involved what he termed "necrophilia" and sexual coercion.
Research 'decades ahead of the times'
"Levick's notes were decades ahead of their time and possibly the first ever attempt to reveal the more challenging aspects of bird behavioural strategies to the academic world," says Douglas Russell, curator of eggs and nests at the Natural History Museum.
Dr Levick attempted to publish a paper entitled The Natural History of the Adelie Penguin, but it was too much for the ladies and gentlemen at the time, said Mr Russell.
Mr Russell and colleagues William Sladen, of John Hopkins Medical Institutions, and penguin researcher David Ainley, have reinterpreted Dr Levick's observations and published their penguin research in the Cambridge University Press journal Polar Record.
Same-sex sexual behaviour in animals has since been documented in many animals including mallards, European swallows, and sand martins. It is also now understood that the acts of necrophilia Dr Levick recorded in penguins are different to those of humans. Penguins do not distinguish between live female penguins who lay in the same position as dead penguins.
One hundred copies of Dr Levick's four-page pamphlet were printed but only two are known to still exist. His notes, part of a private collection, and Adélie penguin specimens - collected from Cape Adare - are on display in the Scott’s Last Expedition exhibition at the museum.
Dr Levick, to a certain extent, falls into the same trap as an awful lot of people in seeing penguins as bipedal birds and seeing them as little people, said Mr Russell: "They're not. They are birds."