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How do penguins survive in Antarctica?


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February 24, 2016 7:17AM

Not all species of penguins live in waters around Antarctica, but those that breed there have a number of adaptations to enable them to survive the icy winds and freezing temperatures.

Penguins have a thick layer of fat underneath the skin which helps to store energy. This thick layer of fat also insulates them. In addition, penguin feathers are specially designed. They are short and have an under-layer of fine woolly down, and easily shed water - a useful characteristic given that penguins spend up to 75% of their time in the water. Penguin feathers are shaped to overlap, enabling not only better streamlining for penguins when they are in the water, but protection from the wind when they are on land.

Penguins have dark feathers on the broad expanse of their backs. These black feathers absorb the heat of the sun, helping to warm up the birds. Penguins have a specially designed circulatory system which can adjust to conserving or releasing heat to maintain a constant temperature. Many species of penguins huddle together for warmth, and the eggs are incubated on the penguins' feet, where they get constant warmth.

Penguins are sea birds and make their homes in the seas.

They visit Antarctica's beaches to breed, because there are no land predators there. When a penguin wants to warm up, the animal simply returns to the warmer sea water. Sea water is liquid and always warmer than the ambient air on the continent.