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Are Penguins Ducks?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/22/2016 Category: Science
Updated: 7 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,326 times Debate No: 88609
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (16)
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Penguins are indeed ducks. Such surety of the matter comes with the support of the very definition of a duck: "A waterbird with a broad blunt bill, short legs, webbed feet, and a waddling gait." This definition from "Science and Society: Understanding Scientific Methodology, Energy, Climate, and Sustainability" by Eric S. Swanson states the very characteristics that define what a duck is. Looking at the common attributes of penguins, it is evident that penguins have the very same attributes that define a duck with broad blunt bills, short legs, webbed feet, as well as a waddling gait. However, this is not to say that all ducks must be penguins, but simply that all penguins are ducks. This can be viewed in the same way that squares are rectangles though not all rectangles are squares. There is a high need for specificity in definitions as they exist to ensure that words being used to communicate information can have as few misunderstandings as possible. Despite this, confusion does still occur mainly due to people who believe that they understand the meaning of a word which is common for words that are used frequently with few alternative meanings/definitions. Distinct definitions for words are created for this exact reason: to eschew misunderstandings through communication. With established definitions for words, we can guarantee either that we are using words in their correct sense or that we are understanding these words in their correct sense both to prevent a reader's potential misunderstanding. With all this said, we can be assured that the definition stated previously is specific to defining what a duck is and what can be considered a duck so long as it falls under its definition. Ultimately, it is undeniable that penguins share the very attributes that define a duck and it is therefore irrefutable that penguins are ducks.


I like the thinking you did to construct this argument.

However, I have a differing opinion.

Ducks and Penguins are different, thus they cannot be grouped by the exact same definition.

Sources below to show the differences in the evolutionary tree of each respective bird - Please exclude any concept of evolution, as I do not wish to be bogged down on a semantic debates, Let's instead focus on the Obvious grouping of specific species, regardless of how it is theorised on how they got there.

Penguins :

Ducks :

As you can see from the above links, each animal has been conciesly documented and defined.

My argument on the matter, is that Definitions are put in place to assist with differentiating the differences between, say a Duck and a Penguin, as both share traits that can be defined to sound the same.

Similar to us saying that Humans are definately Martians, as we both exibit arms, opposable thumbs and cranial heads (Obviously excluding the fact we haven't proved martians exist! It is commonly accepted that the grey alien body is associated with the word 'Martian').

These definitions are the "1st tier" (In my opinion), this gives you a specific series of traits to assist with classifying the animal.

Further definitions go down into the Species name, habits, breading, ecology, food chain positions (Carnivorous, Herbivor or Omnivore), and continue to drill down to exacts - This is THIS animal, as all prior definitions apply to fulfil the exact definition of the animal.

For example, if you were to quote a duck's scientific name, e.g. Anatidae galericulata, the Mandarin Duck - to say a crested penguin (Spheniscidae Eudyptes) - You will see that while both exhibit the definitions you are claiming, there are further clarrifications that can be used to narrow down EXACTLY the animal you are referencing.

Links for the above animals :

I.e. - Black + White Colouring (Penguin)

- Red Crest (Penguin)

- Colour difference between male and female (Duck)

- Animal location

- Swimming habits

- Mating habits

- Bone count

- DNA and microbial structure differences (e.g. Beak differences, Bone shapes, Bone density, Fur/feather composition)

- etc.

In summary - I do agree with your concept there Pro, However I would like to highlight the fact that you have not seemed to clarify further once your opinion has been reached. Further research into the matter clearly shows why these definitions have been created, specifically to counter the argument you have raised - "How can we tell what we define is actually what we are talking about?!"

Over to you, I am excited to see where this progresses!
Debate Round No. 1


I like the thinking you did to construct this argument.

However, I have a differing opinion.

You explained in your argument that humans can be considered Martians because we share supposedly similar characteristics. However, the actual definition of a Martian (as stated by the Oxford English Dictionary) is, "Of or relating to the planet Mars or its (imagined) inhabitants."

Contrary to your definition of what a Martian is, explaining a Martian's characteristics would be invalid in the place of a definition as there is no way to define a Martian by physical appearance for the very reason that you explained yourself: we haven't proven that Martians exist. In this scenario, common acceptance of the belief of the physical appearance does not suffice to define what can and cannot be considered a Martian since as of yet, we are unsure of these qualities. Based on what we do know, however, the definition of a Martian provided above explains specifically what can be considered a Martian.

This said, although we cannot define a Martian by its physical appearance, in the case of a duck, its physical appearance and other attributes alike allow us to define and distinguish them from other species. In essence, these attributes are what make ducks, 'ducks'.

For example, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a duck as "A swimming bird of the genus Anas and kindred genera of the family Anatid", of which species are found all over the world." Although this does initially seem to side with your argument of taxonomy, a problem arises when you discover that the very same dictionary does not have a definition for Anatidae. However, other sources define Anatidae as the biological family of birds within the order Anseriformes which includes most ducks, swans and geese. However, if the definition of 'duck' is being a part of the Anatidae which does not have a concrete definition then how can we assume that penguins do not fall under this category.

What seems to distinguish penguins from being considered Anatidae is the separation between the two starting at the classifying the penguins into Neoaves which is "a clade that consists of all modern birds" whereas most ducks are classified under Galloanserae (fowls) or more specifically Anseriformes (waterfowls). Yet, it is also known that "the early diversification of the various neoavian groups occurred very rapidly, and attempts to resolve their relationships with each other have resulted initially in much controversy."

The definition of a waterfowl (what can be considered Anseriformes) by the Oxford English Dictionary is "A bird which is typically found in or near water; (in later use often) spec. any of the larger kinds of swimming birds, esp. those regarded as game. Now chiefly: ducks, geese, and swans considered as a class." Note that this definition applies to penguins meaning that penguins are technically waterfowls.

Also, "What seems clear is that penguins belong to a clade of Neoaves (living birds except paleognaths and fowl) that comprises what is sometimes called "higher waterbirds" to distinguish them from the more ancient waterfowl." However these definitions for Neoaves and Anseriformes being "newer waterfowls" vs "ancient waterfowl" is not clearly distinguishable. Although the classification system involved in taxonomy seems logical, Further research into the matter clearly shows that there is yet a lot of confusion and controversy in classifying species properly.

There is also consistent debate on what can be considered to be a part of the Anatidae family. "While the status of the Anatidae as a family is straightforward, and there is little [some] debate about which species properly belong to it, the relationships of the different tribes and subfamilies within it are poorly understood."

On to the next point about the species' scientific names, you have proven, even in your own argument, that there is no specific species that is known as 'duck' and the same goes for 'penguin'. The scientific names of the species that you provided are but examples of both a duck and a penguin however under these titles 'duck' and 'penguin' we will, of course, see a variety of specific types of ducks such as the Anas platyrhynchos (Mallard), Anas platyrhynchos domesticus (Domestic duck), and the Anatidae galericulata (Mandarin duck). However a key part to my argument is that the word 'duck' is an umbrella term that is able to fit a variety of specific species under its definition and it is in being rather broadly defined that can allow for a penguin to be identified under the same term since as you also admitted, the attributes used to define a duck apply to penguins too. Sure enough, all of the above-mentioned specific species share the same attributes that are explained in the definition of a duck. Despite being different as specific species, they can all still be referred to as ducks and there is no error in referring to them as such.

Over to you, I am excited to see where this progresses!


Martian statement made by my opponent : Red Herring Fallacy.
I made one reference to martians as an example of not delving too far into descriptions (We have hands, cranial heads and opposable thumbs = Martian) - That whole part by my opponent is to be disregarded, as it has nothing to do with the debate at all.

Not 100% sure why you felt the need to extrapolate on my one sentance example of martians...

Next point : "On to the next point about the species' scientific names, you have proven, even in your own argument, that there is no specific species that is known as 'duck' and the same goes for 'penguin'..."

Please also disregard this section by my opponent, this is a classic Strawman fallacy, by building an argument that I have not raised, then using it to undermine my statements. I refuse to allow you to do this.

With my defensive arguments rebuttled, onto my response :

You brought up the perfect argument for what I was aiming to use this round - Their families are seperated, they are different - the Anitadae are for waterfowl - Flying birds that seat on the water.

Penguins submerge, have Seals as predators, pair with one single other penguin for life and did I mention they can submerge under water?

You claim that they are the same, correct - exactly the same as if you base your definition of most living things as 'Carbon based' - we would all be called the same thing if one refuses to consider the other definitions available to the animal. In the matter of Penguins and Ducks, I hold that you fail to look into the differences of the animal, rather focusing on their similarities.

I know you will respond trying to shoot my ideal down by saying I am sticking to a single point on a matter, and being right on points over transitioning the argument across - From your pror debate. Please don't.

I am maintaining the same position because you have yet to credibly show your side of the argument. You have done rather well at constructing a tangent from a part of my argument which you can 'Throw under the bus", but a debate requires more than that.

Passing the baton to you, to see how you do so.
Debate Round No. 2


The statement I made about Martians in my argument was in reference to your argument made on the matter. The reason why I "felt the need to extrapolate on [your] one [sentence] example of Martians" is because it was an argument that you made and I refuted it just as I did to the rest of the arguments you made regardless of its relevance.

A definition of the article 'a' is "Used to indicate membership of a class of people or things." Your use of the article when stating, "If you were to quote a duck's scientific name, e.g. Anatidae galericulata, the Mandarin Duck [...]" This proves that there are multiple specific species that can be referred to as ducks. It wasn't that it was explicitly said but it was in the language that you used which happened to contribute to my argument about how the word duck is an umbrella term and encompasses a variety of more specific species. If this is not what you were trying to say I would suggest you pay more attention to the meanings of the words you use and how you use them rather than being pretentiously verbose (since you do seem to appreciate specificity).

Also I have already refuted your point ("Their families are [separated], they are different - the Anitadae are for waterfowl - Flying birds that seat on the water.") in my previous argument and I suggest that you actually read and understand the points I've made since a lot of your current arguments are ones I have already rebutted. I also provided a definition from the OED of a waterfowl as evidence for my argument which I would've recommended you use rather than a definition from no legitimate source to give it credibility.

From the definition of a waterfowl provided by the OED, nowhere does it state that waterfowls need to be capable of flight. Also, I was wondering if given the information I presented (in my previous argument), could you please justify why a penguin cannot be considered a waterfowl (therefore Anseriformes) (without creating facts/definitions and while providing credible sources to your information). (Here's a link from the OED explaining its credibility and authority in defining the English language

In addition, there are in fact ducks that submerge (since this seemed to be a key point in your argument) Here is a video that I find adorable of ducks diving for food. (
"Among the ducks in North America , three distinct groups, or tribes, of species are considered "divers." The ruddy duck represents a mostly tropical tribe known as the stifftails. The northern-dwelling sea ducks include three species each of eiders, scoters, and mergansers, as well as the long-tailed duck, harlequin duck, two species of goldeneyes, and bufflehead. Although stifftails, pochards, and sea ducks all dive for food, there are as many differences among them as similarities." (

Of course, penguins and many other ducks have differences, however since the term 'duck' refers to a variety of species ranging from the Indian runner duck to the wandering whistling duck, many ducks have differences that separate them from other ducks though these differences don't stop them from being considered and referred to as 'ducks'. Just as one may specify a flower to be a lily and another flower as a tulip, although they have differences that differentiate them from the other, both can still be referred to as flowers generically.

Also, I'd recommend that you take these subsequent arguments as opportunities to advance and elaborate on your arguments since restating arguments that have already been addressed and countered serves no purpose.

Passing the baton to you, to see how you do so.


You have asked for proof as to why penguins are listed as ducks, as Tulips and Lilies are called flowers.
The response to this is that they have already been grouped in such a way. They are all called "Birds".

As stated in my previous rounds, if you had read (instead of accusing me of not reading the points) - you would see that I am saying you are not 'wrong' so to say - they DO have similarities. The difference is that you are disregarding the rest of the information that has defined the two animals as separate, FROM their master bracket - i.e. Flowers for the tulip/lily example - Bird for the Duck/Penguin.

A quick search shows that Tulips sit under the Genus "Magnoliaceae" - and the Lily, "Liliaceae".
They have been split by definition - both are still 'flowers' - but from discerning their differences, once can split them into individual groups.
Note, this splitting still has hundreds (e.g. 600+ for lilies) of variations - however the classifications are used to direct your attention to that specific group, which has its own specifications to equate to what you are 'looking' for.

As you can see, this supports my stance of "They are DIFFERENT" - You have yet to show why the fact they they have similarities, means they should be grouped together (Whilst disregarding that they already have, AKA - Birds) - apart from the fact that they have the similarities to begin with.

You bring into question the OED, and how it is always changing - This is correct.
It also has no relevance to this debate.
You are saying penguins are ducks because the dictionary does not clarify if fowls are specifically swimming or flying related.
Using that argument can effectively debase the entire debate we are having... you are saying that the definitions cannot be proven to be wrong, I will reply by saying you cannot guarantee that in 20 years time, 'Waterfowl' will mean the same that the word currently means - It could refer to a aquatic related sports in 20 years time (Get it? Water - Fowl(Foul)! hahahaha)... Not to mention that the dictionary also states that Waterfowl are called such, as they are commonly "Game Birds" - ie humans hunt them for food/sport.
The fact is, you never know with an evolving language; This makes this entire argument 'logically fallible". Had this not been the last round, I would have begged that we leave this part of the debate, lest we end up spinning in a circle of semantics.

You failed to acknowledge my other points regarding the penguin/duck differences, such as the mating, food chain, etc.;
By stating that because you have found 3 variants of duck that 'dive' under water to fetch their food, must equate to them being the same.

Even though you will not be able to respond to this - to appropriately claim you have refuted all arguments, you must address the following :

- Locations - Where they are, and if that warrants them to be classified as Ducks.

- Swimming - I.e. Longer than 20-25 seconds of diving under water (which we all refer to as 'Duck Diving') - How does the difference between 30 minutes+ (Penguin) of legitimate swimming and hunting, mean that ducks that go under for less than a minute, proves they are the same? (Hint: They don't). Note, saying this - I am aware there are ducks that have longer underwater time, but they get the initial propulsion for their swimming, by diving from the air, to shock fish near the surface, while they 'skewer' them - the differences in hunting is enough to split the two, which further cements my stance in the matter (IMHO)

- Mating Habits - You have to prove that Ducks have the same Mating habits as Penguins. Penguins are known to 'marry' others of their species, by presenting a rock to their potential partner - That seems a little different to the Duck "Screw anything that cannot bite me back" tactic.

- Physical attributes - Physical attributes contain a majority of definitions to an animal, you have shown their similarities- you would then have to show how their differences are not sufficient to split the animals apart (Hint: It's not.)

- Densities in Bones, changes in physical bearing (And potentially their methods of raising young) - You need to prove that there are no differences, or that the differences between the two animals are sufficient to not define them (Hint: It's not.)

Watch any 30 minute documentary on Youtube (I will not source, as that is not a valid site in my opinion, however the videos they show can be considered valid) - and they will display the glorious majesty that is Penguins, be it their methods of transport when not swimming, to their mating, defensive and social dynamics.. I would suggest Sir David Attenborough for your guide in these ventures.

Summary :
I have proven why my opponents arguments were to be disregarded in the context of the argument, as opposed to my opponent simply stating "You haven't answered my points". Please ignore his attempt to divert the subject.

Contrary to my opponents statements, of simply re-raising arguments that have already been addressed - I believe i have effectively brought back untouched topics that my opponent failed to address, and yet hoped to sweep under the carpet by simply saying "they have been addressed". I cannot see evidence of this, apart from his repetitions of "Penguins are Ducks - The dictionary doesn't NOT say it isn't!"... Which is unsatisfactory as both logical and statistical evidence.

With regards to the actual debate, I have had multiple points left unanswered, thus by omission they have been accepted.
However disregarding the rules of a formal debate, I still believe that logically I have shown my side to be most accurate, and have no further points to either defend or make.
Debate Round No. 3
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by IshanKohli 7 months ago
I realized that I posted the wrong link for the OED site so here it is,
Posted by ZoeSachiko 7 months ago
Zarium post your argument pretty please.
Posted by Zarium 7 months ago
But have you not defined your penguin friend as "Byron"?

Where would your emotional attachment to this one specific penguin be, if you hadnt called it Byron?

Names are extremely important, as without it, your friends would be called "human" and when you tried to call out a specific human, how would you do that?

I have never denied that both ducks and penguins SHARE similarities, i argue that the fact that the do - doesn't mean they are the same.

Byron could be 10cm taller than every other duck and penguin, but alike in every way - you would still call it Byron, wouldn't you?
Posted by ZoeSachiko 7 months ago
You're not hurting my feelings, you're hurting the penguins feelings. Is that what you're trying to do?? WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST PENGUINS??? WHY DO YOU HATE THEM??? Byron would be so disappointed in you.

Are you trying to tell me that a name defines something? That just because somethings name doesn't say that they are something doesn't make it impossible to be that thing.

This isn't a matter of scientific names, it's a matter of whether a penguin could be considered a duck. It may not be scientifically accurate, but if you follow your thinking, then there can be no such thing as transgender people. "Because science says they are blank" is a terrible reason, and is really hurtful (almost as hurtful as your spelling).
Posted by Zarium 7 months ago

"Anatidae galericulata, the Mandarin Duck
Crested penguin Spheniscidae Eudyptes"
The genus classification has been differentiated.
Note, I only provided 2 in the above list, one of a penguin and one of a duck, it's my point that I am aiming for.

Explain to me why they are differentiated - and yet still mean the same animal somehow, and then you are 50% of the way to convincing me logically that your stance is correct.
Posted by ZoeSachiko 7 months ago
Have you accepted the penguin ducks yet? It's only a good comment if I have convinced you.
Posted by Zarium 7 months ago
See, that is 100,000,000 times better than your other responses - that made me laugh ^_^
Posted by ZoeSachiko 7 months ago
Penguins are ducks. Ducks may not be penguins, but penguins ARE ducks.

I can not believe that you are being so closed-minded. I know some penguins, and this is actually really offensive to them. Penguins never did anything to hurt YOU!!!

I met a young penguin 3 years ago... his name was Byron. All his life, he felt he was different, he KNEW that he wasn't just a penguin, he was something MORE. As I spent more time with him, I noticed his interest in ducks. I asked him why he was so interested in their habits, he told me that he had noticed something intriguing, he was EXTREMELY similar to ducks. He began to get confused, as society (people like you, Zarium) told him he couldn't be a duck, for he was a penguin. I asked him why he couldn't be both, and he said that they were different species. I did some research, and found that Byron COULD actually be a duck, it wasn't impossible! Duck is the common name for a large number of species in the waterfowl family Anatidae. I told Byron the good news, and he was SO happy! After that inspiring visit, I traveled around, looking for more penguins I could help. I found so many more penguins who KNEW they were ducks; it wasn't a coincidence, it's in their blood, they ARE ducks, and it's about time society realized this!
Posted by Zarium 7 months ago
Do you know what most people do when they see a single error? Ignore and move on.

Your claim of my horroble spelling is based on what? 5 minutes of one comment/debate?
1 hour after you made your account?

Just sayin'

This entire conversation can also be summed by your chalkboard metaphor.
Posted by ZoeSachiko 7 months ago
You know that painful sound of nails on a chalkboard? It makes your skin crawl, and your head hurt. It is proven to be one of the most annoying sounds of all time.

Approximately 5 minutes ago, I saw something equally painful: your spelling.

I know you will hate me saying this, but you misspelled something else. Not on purpose this time. I'll let you find it, as a gift from me to you.
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