Penguins spend their entire lives living on the world’s coldest continent and swimming in the coldest waters on the planet. How do the penguins do this without freezing? Here are a few of the methods that a penguin uses to stay warm.
1. Down Feathers
The feathers on a penguin aren’t the normal everyday feathers that you might expect to find on a robin or a Blue Jay. Instead, their feathers are extremely short, fine, and wooly. Their outer feathers are covered with a layer of oil to make them a bit more water resistant. They can even puff out their inner feathers a bit to create even more space to trap warm air near their skin.
2. Subcutaneous Fat
Although penguins’ feathers may help them stay warm when they are on land, this doesn’t help them too much when they are in the water. Penguins actually spend about half of their day within the water, and the water is usually right around 25 degrees Fahrenheit (the freezing point of sea water). To stay warm in the water, penguins have a layer of subcutaneous fat. Otherwise known as “blubber”, this has traditionally been Mother Nature’s preferred technique for keeping sea animals like whales, seals, and dolphins warm.
3. The Tripod Technique
Have you ever noticed that you never see penguins lying around on the ice? Instead, they’re always standing up! This is because they need to minimize the amount of body surface area that touches the ice. Ice is cold, and if a penguin were to lie down on the ice, he would soon lose all of his body heat. In fact, penguins don’t even usually stand on the ice for long periods of time. Instead, they rock back on their heels, and use the tip of their tail to keep themselves balanced.
If you’ve ever been out on a cold night with someone you love, then you have probably discovered that you can stay warmer by huddling together. Penguins take this concept to the extreme. To stay warm, they will huddle together en masse. This way they don’t have to absorb all of the cold air and wind by themselves. Instead, they are surrounded by other warm penguins. They take turns standing on the edge of the group.
Penguins definitely have it rough. They live on the coldest continent in the world, and they never get any relief. They never get to go inside or huddle by the fire. However, with a little help from Mother Nature, penguins have discovered a way to tough it out.