Penguins ratify their relationships through the exchange of small rocks or pebbles. Each penguin pair has a ritual in which the male will give a prized rock to his female companion. Penguin species meet for life, so this exchange of the rock is important!
To ratify means to confirm by expressing formal consent, or to make something officially valid. By exchanging a rock a penguin confirms his relationship with another penguin, whose acceptance of that rock also ratifies their relationship.
The word ratify has traditionally been used to describe agreements made between warring countries or tribes in regards to treaties. The word originated from the Latin ratus, or fixed, and went through a few more iterations before it became the word ratify in English. Ratificare was the Medieval Latin word which changed to ratifier in old French. The word came about in the late Middle English period before the 1800s. Ratify is a verb that connotes an action taken by one or more parties.
The penguin in the video takes great care to pick the right rock for his potential mate. He scours the ground, his funny penguin waddle all the more pronounced with his beak pointed towards the ground, eyes peeled. The rocky beaches of the penguin’s home leave many options to be picked out and overturned just in case a better rock is unearthed a few inches or feet away.
The penguin finds a rock but is unconvinced that it is the right one. Until a better one is found, he makes sure to hold this rock in his beak until a more satisfactory rock can be procured for his penguin love. Until then his relationship remains unratified, but not for long!