Size Keeps Em­peror Pen­guin Warm

Science Illustrated - - ANTARCTICA -

The em­peror pen­guin breeds in the cold Antarc­tic win­ter, so the bird must be able to tol­er­ate the bru­tally low tem­per­a­tures.

Tem­per­a­tures can be as low as -60 °C, food is scarce, and it is al­ways dark. In spite of the tough con­di­tions, em­peror pen­guins breed in the freez­ing Antarc­tic win­ter – which re­quires a spe­cial abil­ity to keep warm.

An em­peror pen­guin weighs up to 40 kg, and the size re­duces the heat loss. Pen­guin sur­faces are rel­a­tively small com­pared to their vol­umes, and so, less heat es­capes the bod­ies. Po­si­tioned in lay­ers, in­di­vid­ual sur­face feath­ers are small and scale-like, so ex­tremely high winds are re­quired to lift them and in­tro­duce cold air.

The thick layer of blub­ber that the pen­guins ac­cu­mu­late over the sum­mer, in­su­lates and func­tions as an en­ergy store that the birds can eat into dur­ing the cold months.

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