We tested some predictions of parental investment theory by studying the aggressive behaviour of colonial nesting chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) against human intruders into their nesting territories. We tested for differences in the aggressive behaviour of penguins according to offspring age (eggs vs. chicks), offspring number, nest location in the colonies (central vs. peripheral) and sex. Offspring age was the main factor influencing nest defence, although nest location and sex were also important. Chicks were defended more strongly than eggs, in accordance with changes in the reproductive value of offspring, and this increase in aggressiveness was not related to revisitation of the same individuals. The level of aggression of penguins breeding in central sites was higher than that of peripheral birds, a difference that could be due to the lower residual reproductive value of central-nesting, probably older, birds. The stronger aggressiveness of males could be due to a combination of factors related to sexual selection and life-history traits. Offspring number did not affect the level of nest defence.