Monday, January 6, 2014

Emperor Penguin

It's pretty chilly outside right now (-14F!), but that is nothing compared to the cold temperatures that today's animals endure all the time!

The Emperor Penguin is the largest of all the Penguins, standing up to 4ft tall and weighing nearly 100lbs. It lives only in Antarctica, and regularly experiences wind chills of over worse than -75! These flightless birds actually spend their winters in frigid, windy, open areas, and even breed on the freezing, exposed ice plains. Why? Because they are safe there. Dangers lurk near the water for juveniles, so the Emperor Penguins march as far as 50 miles inland in order to be the only lifeforms around.

The male and female Penguins meet up each breeding season (usually April-May) and pair off. They are monogamous each season, and some pairs return to each other year after year, but only a small percentage. After laying her egg, the female carefully transfers it to her mate, who warms it on top of his feet. She then makes her way back to the sea for two months in order to fill up on food for herself and her offspring.

While the females are gone, the males incubate their eggs for 64 days, and keep warm by walking in a large circular huddle. They take turns warming up on the inside of the huddle and marching on its blisteringly cold fringes. If the egg is exposed during this time (or during transfer from the mother to father), the chick will almost always die, as it cannot withstand cold exposure for long.

The chicks hatch shortly before the females return, and the fathers feed them with a substance that they create in their esophagi. When mom gets home, she calls out for her mate and child, finding them in a crowd of hundreds or thousands by their voice alone. She then takes over parenting duties while the father leaves to feed. This parent-swapping cycle happens a few times before the ice starts to break up and the chicks fledge in summer. The adults and the juveniles then spend their "warm" summer months hunting fish, crustaceans, and squid-- they can even dive down as far as 1,800ft to do so!

Emperor Penguins were recently placed as "Near Threatened" on the IUCN Red List, due to climate change affecting their food supply and habitat. The population appears to be stable at around 550,000 individuals.

IUCN Status : Near Threatened
Location : Antarctica
Size : Height up to 4ft (48in), Weight up to 100lbs (45kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Sphenisciformes
Family : Spheniscidae -- Genus : Aptenodytes -- Species : A. forsteri
Image :  Hannes Grobe

1 comment:

  1. I hope they don't go extinct. I'd hate to live in a world with no emperor penguins; the thought that human bad-habits of climate change wiped them out would make me so upset. :/


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