Enter into SeaWorld and you’re visited with an explosion of color: hanging baskets of flowers in the guest entry plaza, beds of seasonal reds and purples rooted in front of the sky-blue Skytower.
Here is where park guests glance down to their maps, planning out their day. Among many-petaled colors, guests can choose to view a spectral show at Dolphin Stadium, see rainbow-mirroring fishes at SeaWorld’s Turtle Reef, or view luminescent creatures at Freshwater Aquarium.
Other choices are more black and white: must-see animals include killer whales and penguins, SeaWorld’s black and white ambassadors housed—appropriately—far and away from each other. Not only do killer whales and penguins reside at different ends of the park, they also live opposite one another on the food chain. Killer whales inhabit the top link on the food chain: they are fierce unchallenged predators. Penguins inhabit a more middling link—sure they eat fishes and krill, but they have to look out for lurking Leopard Seals and killer whales always on the hunt.
Curiously, killer whales and penguins have much in common despite their opposite ranking on Nature’s who-eats-who list. First of all, they share a similar body shape. Both are fusiform creatures, meaning their body types have been reduced over time to be as simple—and hydrodynamic—as possible. They are, simply, torpedo-shaped, meant to move easily through the water. They’ve both flippers and a streamlining we usually associate with automobiles, jet planes, footballs and submarines. Killer whales and penguins also share the same two crayons in Nature’s Crayola box of colors: black and white. They, however, sport their monochrome differently. The penguin is always thought of as the dapper tuxedo-clad bird: he dons a black overcoat and a white dress shirt of belly feathers. Shamu is quite different. With saddles and eyespots of white amid a cape of black, the killer whale wears not so much a tuxedo, but a canvas reminiscent of mid-century abstract art: splotches of black and white incongruously here and there.
The reason behind their differences in color-presentation amounts to one same thing: camouflage. Remember that killer whales are the hunters, penguins the hunted. Shamu doffs a confusion of black and white. In an underwater world, this serves the killer whale’s purpose: his black and white mottling—also known as disruptive coloration—hides his body shape, making him more an effective predator. The penguin on the other hand, is camouflaged not to confuse, but to continue unnoticed. His black back prevents topside predators from noticing him as they look down into the dark waters; his white belly prevents under-lurkers from seeing his body as they look upwards through the water column toward the more sunlit shallows. Whichever the case, the penguin does not want to meet the killer whale, not even while the opposite sentiment remains true: the killer whale would be most delighted to cordially meet a formally-clad penguin. Still the clever monochrome each animal wear prevents most meetings. By all circumstance, they shouldn’t see one another very well.
SeaWorld obliges Nature on this point—Shamu lives far opposite the park from the penguins. Come visit both and enjoy their respective black and white worlds.