Now that it is mid-November and already VERY cold, I’m wishing I went to school in Florida. I’m further more thinking about the poor little critters that have to stay outside year round. I just don’t understand how penguins can walk on the ice, bare little feet, and be fine! Let’s take a look at how these little guys survive.
To begin, penguins actually have a lot of waterproof feathers that keep their bodies really warm. “Emperor penguins…have one of the highest feather densities of all birds, with about 100 feathers per square inch.” Penguins also have blubber that keeps their bodies warm. However, neither their beaks nor their feet have any type of outward covering to keep them warm! So how can these little guys keep from getting hypothermia when they have to walk on ice all the time or swim in frigid water?
Penguins actually keep so warm with all of their feathers and blubber that its good heat can escape from the beak and the feet. “By having areas that heat can readily escape from, penguins are able to regulate temperature, keeping them from overheating at times.” Without bare feet, the penguins moreover would not be able to grip the ice.
Penguins additionally “have arteries in their legs that are able to adjust blood flow to the feet based on the temperature.” The arteries can tell when the surrounding temperature by how cold the penguins feet are. So the arteries will keep blood flow away from feet so that less blood is going into the feet and being chilled by the air. The arteries also can tell if the penguin is too hot and will allow more blood to flow down to the feet in order for the penguin to cool down. Penguins actually can become drowsy if their body “expends too much energy in heating their feet.” The Penguins feet do not need to be kept at much above freezing; if the feet are any warmer than that it is draining for the penguin.
Penguins also at times will simply sit on their tails to give their feet a moment to warm up. What makes me curious is which the penguins rely on more; the tail sitting or arteries in their legs. Penguins are typically studied through observation, thus to observe the frequency of how often penguins need to sit on their tails would be interesting. The arteries in their legs are also quite vital. If a penguin does not have these arteries could they survive in the arctic? It would be interesting for scientists to look into the effects of malfunctioning arteries in penguin legs. If a penguin dies young could poor arteries in the legs be the mechanism that caused the young death? Penguins are fascinating little birdies, and I loved to know more about them. They are also super cute, as seen below.