|Researcher George Murray Levick was shocked by the behaviour of Adelie penguins. (Shutterstock)
Don't let their happy feet seduce you.
Penguins can be twisted little birds.
So sexually warped, that when nature researcher George Murray Levick first studied them while part of the famed Scott Antarctic Expedition 100 years ago, he was too shocked by their dirty bird habits to publish everything he saw.
And once his notes were handed over to scientists, the findings were largely hidden away.
Society just wasn't ready to read about perverted Adelie penguins.
Now the observations have been placed online in the scientific Cambridge Journals -- though time has not made their natural instincts seem less unsettling. Especially for generations weaned on Disney-worthy depictions of penguins as tux-wearing, wobbly-walking, family-orientated, fun-loving, Coca-Cola-sharing, tap-dancing, surf-riding clowns of the South Pole.
Levick's observations at Cape Adare in 1910 are far less G-rated -- noting male penguins had sex with deceased females, including some which had died the previous season.
There were also times males forced females and chicks into sex and would, occasionally, kill them for the sake of it.
Levick saw the non-procreative behaviour -- including acts of homosexuality -- as depraved. He also blamed the tendencies on "hooligan males."
While first penned in Greek, so only the educated could read the accounts, they were stripped from his final papers published in English in Britain. He did, however, include the depictions in a private pamphlet he handed out to specific experts.
Scientists now say there's better understanding of what's behind the acts that shocked Levick.
The penguins -- used as bellwethers on climate change -- only have a few weeks to procreate. That leads some inexperienced males becoming confused with desire.
And the cadaver of a female may look like a willing mate.
Dyan deNapoli, a Boston-based expert who's known as "The Penguin Lady," said today's researchers have the clarity of time.
"We've had 100 years of research, while (Levick) was the first to witness it," she explains of the unusual behaviour.
"We look at them like men in tuxedos, but they're birds ... and wild animals."
Besides, she notes, humans can also have some pretty unusual sex habits.
And who knows what would be written if a researcher was looking through your bedroom window? And whether those notes should be kept under wraps for another century.