Huddle up with Emperor Penguins


By Amy Duncan

Huddle up with Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins are the largest penguin species and the only one that breeds during the Antarctic winter. Since incubation of their single egg takes two months, these animals have had to develop some unusual ways to stay warm without moving in some of the coldest conditions on the planet.

Only the males handle incubation duties with the females using the time to fill up on food. The Emperor and King Penguins are the only two penguins that do not lay their eggs in a nest on the ground because they would freeze on the Antarctic ice.

Both the Emperor and King Penguins balance the egg on their feet and use their “brood pouch” – a paunch or patch of skin that flops over the egg – to protect the egg from the elements.

Only the Emperor Penguin will huddle, however, since their breeding is during the Antarctic winter. With their eggs carefully balanced on their feet, male penguins will huddle closely together to shield each other from the harsh wind that can reach 125 mph (200 kmh). Penguins will form a dense pack with as many as 10 penguins compacting themselves carefully into a 3-foot square (1 m).

These huddles are highly organized and will appear to move as one large, cooperative mass, not a group of individuals. The penguins in the center of the mass are the warmest so the penguins voluntarily rotate so that each individual is in the center at some point.

Huddling is very efficient. Researchers claim that Emperor Penguins can conserve 50 percent of their body heat by forming tight, organized huddles.


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