Animal Adaptations and Survival
by Mandy Barrow
Animals of the Arctic have many adaptations to help them survive in often inhospitable climate.
Some Penguins live in the Antarctic, where it is extremely cold, and the water temperatures never rise above freezing. Others live further North, but all penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere.
Penguins are flightless birds, but are excellent swimmers. They live on pack ice and in the oceans around Antarctica. They breed on the land or ice surfaces along the coast and on islands.
How are penguins adapted so they can swim fast?
Penguins have webbed feet for powerful swimming. Their bodies are streamlined to reduce drag in water. Their wings, shaped like flippers, also help them "fly" underwater at speeds up to 15 mph.
How do penguins keep warm?
Penguins have to keep high body temperatures to remain active. They have thick skin and lots of fat (blubber) under their skin to keep warm in cold weather.
They also huddle together with their friends to keep warm. Emperor penguins have developed a social behaviour that when it gets cold, they huddle together in groups that may comprise several thousand penguins.
The dark coloured feathers of a penguin's back surface absorb heat from the sun, so helping them to warm up too.
What is the job of penguins feathers?
Penguins tightly packed feathers overlap to provide waterproofing and warmth. They coat their feathers with oil from a gland near the tail to increase impermeability. Waterproofing is critical to penguins' survival in water, Antarctic seas may be as cold as -2.2°C (28°F) and rarely get above +2°C (35.6°F).
(-2°C is the freezing point of sea water, below zero because of the salt).
How do penguins stay under water?
Penguins don't have all the extra airspaces in their bones that normal birds have. Their heavy, solid bones act like a diver's weight belt, allowing them to stay underwater.
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