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Daily briefing: Explore the world with Leif Penguinson

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In March 2020, with its doors closed, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois, let its Rockhopper penguins explore the place. Nature media maestro Tom Houghton (who illuminates the Nature Briefing) was inspired to enrich your day by hiding a Rockhopper in a scientifically fascinating location. Thus was born the legend that is Leif Penguinson and the very first “Can you spot the penguin?”.

Since that day, our penguin protagonist has travelled to dozens of scientifically interesting (and eye-poppingly beautiful) locations around the world.

Many readers have asked how a penguin — even one this exceptional — can achieve Leif's feats, including climbing trees and clinging to sheer cliff faces. The credit goes to the huge team of bird wranglers, crane operators, net holders and ladder steadiers at work — all off camera, of course. (And the fact that Leif is completely fictional.)

Now, on to the fun! In each case, to see a bigger version of the image, click the link in the text. Or skip straight to the bottom to revisit the hardest ‘spot the penguin’ challenge of all time.

We start with the very first penguin hunt, in the Škocjan Caves in Slovenia. Can you find the penguin? (Click the text link to see a bigger version of the image.)

When you’re ready — click here to see the answer!

The Detroit Zoo joined in on the idea of letting their penguins explore the place — and so did we! The second chance to find our cheeky Rockhopper was in the coral reefs of Papua New Guinea.

Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!

Our cunning Rockhopper penguin then hid among the zebras in the great Serengeti migration. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!

Then, our intrepid Rockhopper penguin was hiding in a stand of dragon blood trees (Dracaena cinnabari) in Yemen. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!

Our penguin was becoming a much-loved recurring character, and so needed a name. After a close-fought vote among monikers including Sven (short for Spheniscidae), Passepartout, Heidi (a personal favourite) and Guino the pinguino, our Rockhopper was officially dubbed ‘Leif Penguinson’.

We also remembered that time when Leif Penguinson went to the Moon with Apollo 15. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!

Next, our intrepid friend hid among the beautiful swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) trees of Sukko Lake, Russia. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!

Then, Leif Penguinson visited the majestic Kolugljúfur Gorge in Iceland. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!

Our roaming Rockhopper next took in the stunning Valle de la Luna in Bolivia. Did you spot Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Afterwards, Leif Penguinson went forest bathing on the beautiful Plombergstein, near Salzburg, Austria. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here the answer.

Next, our avian explorer hid among the slightly suggestive rock towers in Göreme National Park in Turkey. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the solution.

In April, our flightless feathered friend in formalwear hid among the surprisingly tightly packed rocks of Hickory Run Boulder Field in Pennsylvania. Can you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Next, our aquatic explorer dried off among the spiny treasures of the Huntington Library Desert Garden in California. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Our Rockhopper master of disguise tried to blend in at the waterhole at Etosha National Park in Namibia. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Next, our playful penguin hid among the limestone ‘tufa towers’ that rise above the surface of Mono Lake in California. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

We warmly recall the time Leif Penguinson chipped in a flipper to help NASA scientists with the James Webb Space Telescope. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

In July, our playful penguin escaped the heat among the snowy trees in Ruka, Finland. Can you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Our intrepid explorer blended in at the spectacular limestone needles of Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in northwest Madagascar. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Sir Leif of Penguinson then visited the verdant chasm of Lud’s Church in England, which might have inspired the Green Chapel where Sir Gawain faced shenanigans in Arthurian legend. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Next, Leif Penguinson visited the steaming fumaroles of Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

In August, Leif Penguinson paid a visit to an impressive pile of coconuts on the island of La Digue in the Seychelles. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson pondered the mysteriously twisted trees of Poland’s Crooked Forest. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Next, Leif Penguinson pursued some work–life balance in the Fann Mountains in Tajikistan. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Then, our bashful bird buddy Leif Penguinson was out enjoying the spectacular views at Salar de Atacama, the largest salt flat in Chile. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Next, Leif Penguinson cooled down by a stream lined with volcanic rock at Kipahulu Forest Reserve in Hawaii. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson relaxed in the mangrove forest bordering Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

As Autumn loomed, Leif Penguinson spent some time gazing penguinfully out to sea on the Mendocino Coast in California. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready: here’s the answer.

As winter closed in, Leif Penguinson was chilling out in the frozen Chute-aux-Galets in the Shipshaw river in Quebec, Canada. Did you find the penguin/avez-vous trouvé le pingouin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer/voilà!

Our favourite flightless adventurer warmed up at the thermal springs of Pamukkale in southwest Turkey. Did you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here is the answer.

Next, Leif Penguinson lounged on the stunning limestone rock formations of Tapiutan Island in the Philippines. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here is the answer.

Then, our penguin explorer was ensconced in the terraces of Ein Karem, Israel. Did you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here is the answer.

I also asked you whether you’d rather face a Chihuahua-sized tyrannosaur or a tyrannosaur-sized Chihuahua (inspired by the first known fossils of embryonic tyrannosaurs, which showed that they were about the size of a Chihuahua when born). In a landslide, 78% would take on a tiny tyrannosaur in preference to a really very huge dog. I don’t think you're taking temperament sufficiently into account here, folks.

Next, our intrepid avian adventurer explored the marble rocks along the banks of India’s Narmada River. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the solution.

Leif Penguinson found joy and calm among the alpine lakes and golden larch trees of the Enchantments basin in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Then, Leif Penguinson was basking in the autumn colours of Seoraksan National Park in South Korea. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our well-insulated wanderer was well hidden in the ice and snow of Fort Erie, Ontario. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our peripatetic penguin clung to the catwalks of Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, Canada. Can you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

December came, and our fearless friend meandered through the lily-decked waterways of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson was awestruck by the stunning cliffs of Avacha Bay on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east of Russia. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson was singing “how lovely are thy branches” to the snow-frosted trees of the Stubai Alps in Austria. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our intrepid penguin explorer was making friends with the Australian pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus) nesting in Broken Bay, Australia. Did you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

The lovely Leif Penguinson was watching the snow fall on the River Wharfe in the grounds of Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our avian explorer traversed the steep hillside trees of Viñales Valley in Cuba. Did you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our bird-without-borders hid out at a stone arch located on the banks of the Iset River in Russia. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our peregrinating penguin drank in the lush riverside views of Visconde de Mauá, Brazil. Did you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson mingled with the cave-dwelling creatures who live in the underground forests of the Janelão cave in the Cavernas do Peruacu National Park in Brazil. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here is the answer.

Leif Penguinson continued a tour of South America to check out the Araucaria Forest in Parque Nacional Huerquehue, Chile. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson hid among the European beech (Fagus sylvatica) trees on the shore of the chalk cliffs of Møns Klint, Denmark. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our bird without borders boggled at the unusual horizontal waterfalls in Lalang-garram / Horizontal Falls Marine Park in Australia. Did you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our peripatetic penguin enjoyed the ice-bejeweled cliffs of Bruce Peninsula National Park in Canada. Did you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our far-flung friend Leif Penguinson basked in the azure waters of Five Flower Lake in Jiuzhaigou National Park, China. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

World-wanderer Leif Penguinson kept it local in lockdown for the one-year anniversary of our penguin seeking adventures in Epping Forest, northeast of London. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

At Eastertime, our roaming Rockhopper hid among the iconic birch trees of Novosibirsk, Russia. Can you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson breathed the fresh mountain air in Toubkal National Park in Morocco. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson enjoyed the breathtaking forest views of the Tanzawa Mountains in Japan. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Tireless traveller Leif Penguinson cooled off in a mountain stream in Ghandruk, Nepal. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson basked in the hot springs in Abijatta-Shalla National Park, Ethiopia. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson hid fiendishly well in the Blue Grotto in Malta. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson scaled the cliffs of Rugova Canyon in Kosovo. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson enjoyed a sojourn on Nauru, which notably has vaccinated 100% of its adult population against COVID-19. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson went to see a waterfall in Snowdonia, Wales. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson explored Samar Island Natural Park in the Philippines. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson hid among the trees of Mount Charleston, Nevada. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson bedded down in a bothy in the Lake District, UK. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

In June, a fiendishly difficult penguin puzzle saw Leif Penguinson cooling off at the Abiskojåkka river in Abisko National Park in Sweden. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

The same week, news of a gadget that ‘instantly’ cures hiccups introduced me to hiccup-healing techniques I’ve never heard of. I have been a committed hold-your-breath-and-swallow-five-times fan, but I’m quite tempted by the alternative proposal of plugging both ears and drinking a glass of water through a straw. Totally new to me: cold keys down the back.

This kicked off a frenzy of hiccup-related e-mails from readers who shared how you stop the sudden spasms. The most unpleasant sounding: eating a spoonful of sugar and vinegar.

Reader Avan Antia shared an unusual one that I can vouch for, thanks to a hiccup-hating stranger on a bus. “A friend does this,” writes Antia. “With much drama he extracts a banknote of considerable denomination from his wallet and dangles it enticingly in front of me. If I manage to hiccup just ONE MORE TIME, he promises, the money is mine. With great glee I anticipate the next hiccup, and the shock on his face when he realizes how rash and stupid his promise has been. I wait… and wait…. but the hiccup never comes.”

Of course, this relies on having a friend who carries large amounts of cash (also useful in many other situations, to be fair). Lauren Cullen suggests a cheaper option. “I had the hiccups at work many years ago and one of my colleagues came and asked me, ‘When was the last time you saw a white horse?’” writes Cullen. The resulting bewilderment banished the problem at hand. “I have used this technique to daze, confuse and cure the hiccups of those around me ever since.”

Ultimately, a vote was taken to decide once and for all which is the best method. Holding your breath (maybe alongside some other action, like swallowing) came out the clear winner, with 38% of votes cast. Drinking from the wrong side of the glass (or similar drinking acrobatics) was a distant second. Other favourites, such as eating a spoonful of sugar, surprising or bewildering the patient, and just chilling out, battled it out pretty much equally in third.

I’m delighted to report that I got hiccups myself the same day and my new favourite, plugging both ears and drinking a glass of water through a straw, worked like an absolute charm. (Disclaimer: it was wine.)

Onwards. Leif Penguinson was hiccup-free while trekking on the gigantic Medieval cobblestones of Dimosari gorge in Greece. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson was tucked among the stunning rock formations near Cannonville, Utah. Thanks to Briefing reader Walter Lipton, who kindly submitted the photo (where he got a penguin, I don’t know). Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson was tucked among the spectacular volcanic tuff of Wheeler Geologic Area in Colorado. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Avian explorer Leif Penguinson spent the summer break with friends in Antarctica. Did you spot Leif’s distinctive Rockhopper silhouette among the Emperors? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson hid in one of the hottest, lowest, and driest places on Earth: the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif spent the long weekend chillaxing in the Orkhon Valley, once the heart of the Mongol Empire, in Central Mongolia. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson explored the spectacular Sanetti Plateau in Ethiopia, home to ecological riches including the entire global population of the giant mole rat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus) and the largest remaining natural stand of wild coffee genetic stock. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson scaled a limestone gorge abutting Dents de Lanfon mountain in France. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson mingled with the goats in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson was forest bathing in a mangrove tunnel in Roatán, Honduras. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our peripatetic penguin was relaxing near an alpine tarn in Mount Field National Park in Australia. Did you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Our flightless friend Leif Penguinson was trekking near the frigid waters of the Dudh Koshi river, which is fed by the meltwater of Mount Everest in Nepal. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson enjoyed the weathered gypsum towers of the Wahweap Hoodoos in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Did you find the penguin? When you're ready, here's the answer.

Leif Penguinson is in the Rockery at Chatsworth House in the United Kingdom. Gardener Joseph Paxton, who designed the Rockery, also played a key role in cultivating the Cavendish banana, source of pretty much every banana eaten today. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Leif Penguinson visited a limestone cliff in Punakaiki, on New Zealand’s South Island. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here's the answer.

Leif Penguinson refreshed body and spirit in the lush rainforest of Masoala National Park in Madagascar. Did you find the penguin? When you're ready, here's the answer.

Leif Penguinson was exploring the snow-dusted standing stones of the Merrivale prehistoric settlement in Devon, UK. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Thanks to those readers keeping me up to date with penguin news, including the birth of a rare rockhopper penguin chick at a zoo in Montreal (I’m assured that Leif had nothing to do with it) and news that an Adélie penguin from Antarctica had appeared 3,000 kilometres away, in New Zealand. Remember, penguins, Leif is a trained globetrotter — don’t try this at home.

Leif Penguinson was basking in the beauty of the moss-draped bald cypress trees of Caddo Lake State Park in Texas. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here's the answer.

Leif Penguinson dipped tired flippers in the Potomac River in Great Falls National Park, Virginia. Did you find the penguin? When you're ready, here’s the answer.

Our fictional flightless friend Leif Penguinson hid in the serene green of Sankeien Garden in Japan. Did you find the penguin? When you're ready, here's the answer.

The hardest ‘spot the penguin’ challenge of all time (so far)

Over the August break, Leif Penguinson and four friends created the hardest ‘spot the penguin’ challenge yet. Leif, Passepartout, Heidi, Guino the pinguino and Bosworth the Buoyant (I knew that naming poll would come in handy!) were in Fantasy Canyon, Utah. Did you find the penguins? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Whew, what an adventure! Before we go, here’s a little tip for all you penguin hunters. Don't imagine that my short introductions to Leif’s hiding places contain any clues as to where to find the penguin. I’m rubbish at finding Leif, and I don’t see the answers until you do!

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-03610-9

Where will Leif land next? Only chief penguin-wrangler Tom Houghton knows for sure. Your feedback on Leif’s shenanigans — or any other opinions about this newsletter — are always welcome at briefing@nature.com.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

Updates & Corrections

  • Update 15 December 2021: This article has been updated with the latest images.

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