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Penguins are this winter's hot trend

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Forget polar bears. This winter's "it" critter is unquestionably the penguin.

"Penguins have always been a popular animal, but they do seem to be taking the nation by storm these days," said Christina Slater, a self-proclaimed "penguinologist" and curator of the penguin exhibit at California's Monterey Bay Aquarium.

America's love affair with penguins stretches from Hollywood to publishing to the Internet. First came "March of the Penguins" in 2005, which won the Oscar for best documentary. Now "Happy Feet," an animated movie about a penguin that can't stop dancing, is filling theaters. The film was No. 1 at the box office three weeks in a row and has just been nominated for a Golden Globe.

"I think it's because penguins are incredibly charismatic," Slager said. "There's also their funny-looking upright stance, their inquisitive nature, their quirky behaviors - all these make for one really intriguing bird."

Though she might be biased, the aquarium's Penguin Cam, a 24-hour, live Webcast broadcasting the antics of the park's 18 penguins, has also enjoyed a surge of viewers in recent months.

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