Why don’t penguins freeze in icy water?

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By Scott A. Rowan

Why don’t penguins freeze in icy water?

Penguins spend hours every day preening their feathers to protect them when they swim. Some penguins spend as much as 75 percent of their life in the waters in our near Antarctica so taking care of their feathers is important since their feathers are what prevent them from freezing.

There are two ways penguins use their feathers to avoid freezing: the feathers trap air in between the feathers and their body, giving the birds a “puffy jacket” of sorts. Puffy jackets keep humans warm by trapping pockets of air that surround the person, keeping them warm.

The pockets of air the penguins trap in their feathers do the same thing, but without a zipper.

When on land, penguins spend hours preening their feathers to keep them clean so they can trap air properly. They also coat their feathers in a special oil that keeps their feathers waterproof. The oil is secreted from a gland near their tail.

With waterproof feathers and the ability to trap air in their feathers penguins avoid becoming an ice cube in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean.

SOURCES:

Brennan, Patricia. Penguins and Other Flightless Birds. Chicago, IL: World Book, Inc, 2002.

Daigle, Evelyne. The World of Penguins. New York, NY: Tundra Books, 2007.

Simon, Seymour. Penguins. New York, NY: Collins, 2007.

SLJ Staff. “And Tango Makes Three’ Tops Most Challenged List, Again.” School Library Journal. April 12, 2011. Accessed: January 30, 2013.

Stamps Showing Emperor Penguin Aptenodyte forsteri.” Theme Birds. Accessed: January 30, 2013.

Stefoff, Rebecca. Penguins. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2005.

Walsh, Michael. “Scientists Solve the Mystery of Penguins’ Incredibly Fast Underwater Swimming Speed: A Secret Layer of Bubbles.” Daily News. October 20, 2012. Accessed: January 19, 2013.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/e/emperor-penguin/

https://www.factretriever.com/penguin-facts

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-antarctica/wildlife/animals/penguins

http://ocean.si.edu/penguins

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