The emperor penguin is the largest, heaviest and most recognisable of all penguin species. It has few natural enemies and exploits a habitat that few other animals can. Although it numbers more than 150,000 pairs, increased fishing and pollution of the polar seas will undoubtedly seriously threaten the birds long term future.

Emperor penguin facts

1. The emperor penguin can dive to depths of 565 metres (deeper than any other bird), and can stay underwater for 18 minutes - far longer than any other bird. Some sources say that they can stay submerged for over 20 minutes!

2. Unlike regular flying birds, the emperor penguin does not have light, air-filled bones. This makes it easier for it to stay underwater without having to battle the effects of buoyancy as this will tire the bird and reduce the length of time it can stay submerged.

3. Emperor penguin breeding sites are usually situated under the shelter of a permanent ice cliff which may be many miles away from the open sea. One emperor penguin colony, at Hope bay is a strength-sapping 200 miles inland.

4. The emperor penguin lies on its belly on icy slopes and 'toboggans' across the surface with great ease.

5. During the breeding season the male emperor penguin does not feed while he takes care of the egg and subsequent chick. This period of fasting begins in March and ends in July and can be as long as 115 days.

6. The emperor penguin has to cope with wind chills as cold as -60°C and blizzards of 124 mph.

7. To help conserve heat the emperor penguin has a number of very special adaptations. It has four layers of scale-like feathers to help protect them from freezing winds. It has a low surface area relative to the size of its body, a small bill and wings to reduce heat loss. It is also insulated by a thick layer of blubber, which also acts as an energy reserve. The emperor penguin has evolved a heat exchange system in its nasal passages so that it loses as little heat as possible when breathing out. To further prevent heat loss the emperor penguin huddles in groups during the worst of the freezing weather.

8. Emperor penguins are approximately 112cm tall, they can weigh between 20-40 kg and live up to 20 years in the wild. Reports suggest that some captive individuals may live to 50 years of age.

9.Emperor penguins are excellent swimmers, reaching speeds of approximately 7.6 mph.

10. The emperor penguin is the only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter.

For related articles click onto the following links:

No comments: