As if their home in Antarctica weren’t cold enough, emperor penguins actually allow their exteriors to drop at least 7°F below their surroundings. The change helps the penguins stay warm, a recent paper showed. When the outer layer of feathers radiates heat to the sky, it becomes colder than its immediate environment, so heat flows back in. The cycle keeps the temperature underneath the plumage constant—and the penguin alive. Check out this very cool looking heat map of Emperor Penguins.
Posts Tagged ‘Emperor Penguins’
The Penguin Post has learned that scientists have created a highly efficient and extremely maneuverable propulsion system by mimicking the shoulder of an Emperor penguin. The mechanism, which features an innovative spherical joint with three actuated degrees of freedom, could lead to new types of propellers that have directional thrusting capability.
Caltech’s Flavio Noca was inspired to design the device after watching the IMAX movie Antarctica, which showed how Emperor penguins can accelerate underwater from 0 to 7 meters/second in less than a second. Noca will be demonstrating the penguin-inspired propulsion system next week at the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting in Pittsburgh.
Based on a penguin’s shoulder-and-wing system, the mechanism features a spherical joint that enables three degrees of freedom and a fixed center of rotation. “Unlike an animal shoulder joint, however, this spherical joint enables unlimited rotational range about the main shaft axis like a propeller,” Noca explained.
To achieve this, the researchers needed to overcome the technical challenges of spherical joints, such as the lack of rigidity and the inability to generate high torques. The researchers cleared these hurdles by using a “parallel robotic architecture,” which Noca says enables rigidity as well as high actuation frequencies and amplitudes.
“Because the motors are fixed, inertial forces are lower than for a serial robotic mechanism, such as a multi-joint arm,” explains Noca. “The resulting spherical parallel mechanism with coaxial shafts was designed and manufactured with these specifications: a fixed center of rotation (spherical joint), a working frequency of ~2.5 Hz under charge, an unlimited rotation about the main axis, and an arbitrary motion within a cone of /- 60 degrees.
Aside from the technological perspective, the manner in which penguins swim is still poorly understood, according to Noca. “By accurately reproducing an actual penguin wing movement, we hope to shed light on the swimming mysteries of these underwater rockets,” he said.
The soon to be released Noodles & Albie is a colorful and fun penguin picture book. Story by Eric Bennett and illustrations by Liz Bannish. It is the tale of how a young penguin (Noodles) overcomes his fears and makes, loses and finds again an unlikely new friend (Albie), and does a lot of growing up the process.
Noodles & Albie was conceived and evolved over time by Penguin Place founder and long time lover of all things penguin Eric Bennett as a bedtime story for his young daughters. The story was originally called The Fish & The Penguin, and was scribbled down a couple of times, and over time some illustrations were made by Eric and his kids, but it was mostly told and re-told from memory and over the years with each re-telling the story grew and the characters evolved.
This past January, Eric was “volunteered” by his youngest daughter Rose to read a story to her kindergarten class, so Eric decided rather than read something the kids already knew, he’d finally put The Fish & The Penguin story to paper and read his original penguin tale to Rose’s class. In writing it down Eric fleshed out the main characters a bit more giving them the names Noodles and Albie, and added a few supporting underwater players. The origin of the title names were that Noodles has been Eric’s nickname since he was a kid (think long curly ringlets of 1970′s hair), and Albie is the the nickname of Eric’s friend Melissa who he plays ball with. Eric also decided on settling on those names so as not to upset either of his daughters, and also to give the characters a bit more personality than the generic Fish & Penguin. Besides, it seemed from the get-go that the names Noodles & Albie fit the characters perfectly.
To Eric’s surprise and delight the reading of Noodles and Albie to Ms. Bussone’s kindergarten class at Bridge St. School was met with much fanfare and acclaim, or as much acclaim (twenty 6 years old kids giving a standing ovation) as one can get from a kindergarten class. Even Ms. Bussone wanted to know the origin of this “wonderful book”. A small Noodles & Albie buzz was now in the air around the lower grades with Eric getting requests for print copies of the story from some of the children and parents at Bridge St. School. A short time later Noodles & Albie was brought to the attention of local Northampton artist Elizabeth Bannish who was intrigued by the charming narrative and colorful characters of the story, so naturally Eric inquired if she would be interested in illustrating the story. To his surprise Liz said yes, and the two began to collaborate on the fun side project of bringing the Noodles, Albie and their world to life. Over the next weeks and months Liz’s illustrations went from black and white storyboard sketches, to beautiful, unique and vivid color paintings. Capturing the essence of the story and her interesting take on the characters that inhabit it.
Not to give too much away but the story is about Noodles, a young penguin who is afraid to go in the water, but of course being a penguin he must learn how to swim, especially before the winter and six months of Antarctic darkness sets in.
On the last day of summer (and daylight), his parents finally convince Noodles to take the plunge. After a few moments of confusion and anxiety Noodles realizes that swimming is easy and fun. But, in his excitement Noodles gets separated from his friends and soon is lost. He knows he has to get back home before the sun sets for the Antarctic (six months) winter or else he’ll never find his way home, and so his odyssey begins. He asks various sea creatures for directions, but none of them know where the penguin colony is. Alone and lost, Noodles is desolate. A small fish named Albie hears his crying and offers to help. It’s a race against time to get back to the penguin colony before the sun sets. The fun adventures and intrigue that happens to the pair along the way is what Noodles & Albie is all about.Noodles & Albie should be available as an e-book sometime the Fall of 2013
Brian Marrow is obsessed with icebergs, wind patterns and cold-weather penguins. All for good reason, too. For the past three years, he’s been part of the creative team that conjured up SeaWorld Orlando’s latest attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, which opened last week.
As the senior director of attraction development and design at SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, it’s his job to make this new “realm” feel like a tantalizing tundra, from the shimmering faux glaciers to the 2,500 handblown icicles made of Pyrex.
“We wanted to take guests somewhere that they might not go on their own,” he said. “And there is no greater adventure than a journey to the bottom of our planet.”
It’s an elaborate adventure, indeed, that includes a first-of-its-kind family thrill ride, an expansive penguin habitat, underwater viewing area, gift shop and restaurant. With a footprint of nearly 4-acres, it is the largest expansion project in the park’s history.
First up: the newfangled high-tech ride. But before hopping aboard, guests shuffle through rooms where the temperature gradually drops, preparing them for extreme temps at the end of the ride. Meanwhile, an animated pre-show introduces the star, a baby penguin named Puck. Then, guests choose their level of adventure: “wild” or “mild. “
“The ride had a sensation of gliding over ice just as a penguin would,” said Lake Mary, Fla., resident Susie Guyers, who experienced the ride at a preview event. “We didn’t know which direction was next; it wasn’t a set path.” That’s all thanks to a trackless system, which allowed engineers to create 32 different ride scenarios.
Even cooler, though, is what comes next. The ride exits into a 30-degree penguin palace with varied levels of fake rocks, a swimming area and a 2-foot wall that serves as the only barrier between guests and birds. The 6,125-square-foot habitat is home to 245 Gentoo, Rockhopper, Adélie and King penguins, which were the main attraction for Guyer.
“We were so close we could have gotten splashed,” she said. “The penguins were really active; they were diving up out of the water and back in. It truly felt like we were no longer in Florida.”
Did you know that penguins didn’t always boast tuxedo-like black-and-white markings, according to a new study. The discovery of the first ancient penguin fossil with evidence of feathers reveals the aquatic birds were not black and white but were once reddish-brown and gray.
The 36 million-year-old fossil represents one of the largest ancient penguins ever found. The bird would have been 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, and probably weighed twice as much as modern Emperor penguins, which average about 66 pounds (30 kilograms). Its long, grooved beak suggests that, like modern penguins, it hunted by diving for fish. Imprints of feathers in the rock around the bones could help researchers understand how modern penguin feathers evolved, said Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at The University of Texas at Austin and a co-author of the paper.
The fossil, a new species named Inkayacu paracasensis (or “Water King”), was discovered in the Reserva Nacional de Paracas, a desert preserve on the coast of Peru. Researchers in the field noticed evidence of scaly skin on the fossil foot, prompting suspicion that more evidence of soft tissue might have been preserved. When Clarke examined the specimen in the lab, those suspicions proved true.
“I turned over a flake of rock right near one of the wing elements, and right there was our first evidence of feathering,” she told LiveScience. To find out what color those feathers might have been, the researchers examined the shape of the penguin’s melanosomes. These tiny structures resembling pockets contain pigment cells that help give bird feathers their color. The analysis showed that the ancient feathers were likely reddish-brown and gray.
“The plumage of these animals was in a very different palette of what we see in living penguins today,” Clarke said. While comparing the ancient penguin’s melanosomes to modern birds, the researchers noticed another oddity: Modern penguin melanosomes are different from those of other modern birds. They’re broader and clustered in patterns not seen in other species.
Stranger still, the ancient penguin’s melanosomes didn’t match modern penguins’ and instead looked like the melanosomes of other modern birds. The feathers themselves were shaped and stacked like those of modern penguins, suggesting that the ancient penguin had already evolved to swim. The broad melanosomes, however, must have evolved later, perhaps as a way to make feathers more resistant to the wear and tear of swimming underwater, the researchers wrote in the Sept. 20 online edition of the journal Science. Black-and-white coloring would have evolved later, as camouflage from predators like seals that weren’t yet around when the newly discovered penguin species roamed the seas.
“It’s a quite interesting find, because not only the feather preservation, but also because they found a nearly complete skeleton,” said Gerald Mayr, a paleornithologist at the Senckenberg Museum of National History in Germany, who was not involved in the study. However, Mayr said, the theory that physical forces acted on penguin feathers to change the evolution of melanosomes is contradicted by the fact that half of modern penguin feathers are white and contain no melanosomes, despite being subject to the same hydrodynamic forces as melanosome-rich black feathers.
“The main question certainly is, if not due to hydrodynamic forces, why do penguins have such strange melanosomes?” Mayr said. The new fossil is the first chance researchers have had to ask such questions about how penguin feathers evolved to ‘fly’ not in the air, but underwater, Clarke said. “It’s a pretty major transition to go from aerial flight to aquatic flight, to flying in a medium that’s around 800 times denser than air,” Clarke said, adding: “I think there will be more to the story of this penguin’s feathering.”
Do penguins adhere to daylight savings time? Do penguins even care? Antarctica where two major penguins species reside (Emperor and Adlie) sits on every line of longitude, due to the South Pole being situated near the middle of the continent. Theoretically Antarctica would be located in all time zones, however areas south of the Antarctic Circle experience extreme day-night cycles near the times of the June and December solstices, making it difficult to determine which time zone would be appropriate. For practical purposes time zones are usually based on territorial claims, however many stations use the time of the country they are owned by or the time zone of their supply base (e.g. McMurdo Station and Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station use New Zealand time due to their main supply base being Christchurch, New Zealand).Many areas have no time zone since nothing is decided and there are not even any temporary settlements that have any clocks. They are simply labeled with UTC time. With almost six months of daylight and six months of darkness in most of Antarctica we must conclude that daylight savings time in the southern continent does not make any sense, so there’s no “fall back, spring ahead” in Antarctica, and since penguins can’t tell time, we must conclude the Antarctic time zone phenomenon moot. At least for penguins.
The Penguin Post has learned that a decline in the population of emperor penguins appears likely this century as climate change reduces the extent of Antarctic sea ice, shows a recently published U.S. study. The research, led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and published this week in Global Change Biology, focuses on a much-observed colony of emperor penguins in Terre Adelie, Antarctica. Employing a set of sophisticated computer simulations of climate and a statistical model of penguin demographics, the authors conclude that the number of breeding pairs may fall by about 80 percent by 2100. Building on previous work, the team examines how the sea ice may vary at key times during the year, such as the seasons of egg laying, incubation and chick-rearing, and how the sea ice concentrations may influence the males and females. The authors stress that their projections contain large uncertainties, because of the difficulties in projecting both climate change and the response of penguins. However, almost all of their computer simulations point to a significant decline in the colony at Terre Adelie, a coastal region of Antarctica where French scientists have conducted penguin observations for more than 50 years. “Our best projections show roughly 500 to 600 breeding pairs remaining by the year 2100,” says lead author Stephanie Jenouvrier, a WHOI biologist. “Today, the population size is around 3,000 breeding pairs.” Another penguin population, the Dion Islets penguin colony close to the West Antarctic Peninsula, has disappeared, possibly because of a decline in Antarctic sea ice, according to the biologist. The nearly four foot tall emperors are the largest species of penguin. They are vulnerable to changes in sea ice, where they breed and raise their young almost exclusively.
Counting emperor penguins in their icy Antarctic habitat was not easy until researchers used new technology to map the birds from space, and they received a pleasant penguin surprise for their efforts. The Penguin Post has learned that by using satellite mapping with resolution high enough to distinguish ice shadows from penguin poo, an international team has carried out what they say is an unprecedented penguin census from the heavens over the past three years. The good news was that the team found the Antarctic emperor penguin population numbered about 595,000, nearly double previous estimates. But the bad news was that some colonies have disappeared altogether due to changing weather patterns and the long-term future of the birds is far from assured. “Yes, this is the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space, absolutely,” said Barbara Wienecke, a sea bird ecologist with the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) who spoke with Reuters by phone from the Aurora Australis research vessel. Previous counts have been inaccurate due to rough terrain that made some colonies inaccessible and frigid temperatures that can plummet to – 50 degrees Celsius (- 58 Fahrenheit). This time the group, a collaboration between the AAD, the British Antarctic Survey, the University of Minnesota/National Science Foundation and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, used aerial photography to calibrate their analysis of counts taken on the ground. Emperor penguins, with their distinctive black and white plumage, stand out against the snow. That means colonies are clearly visible on satellite images, the group found. Their results are published in the journal PLoS ONE.
The technique also has the advantage of having no negative impact on the sensitive Antarctic environment or the birds. “Most of the time it is impossible to take into consideration every single colony, but now we are in a position that we can actually compare how the sea ice environment changes and hopefully continue to monitor the population – and see which ones may or may not be decreasing in size,” Wienecke said. Previous censuses using more traditional counting methods came up with estimates of 270,000 to 350,000 birds. While the greater number of penguins is encouraging, changing weather patterns mean their survival is far from assured. The larger population may also pressure the numbers of krill in the oceans, an essential food for the penguins.
Warming oceans observed by the research team can also have an impact. Of particular concern is what happens with “long fast ice” – ice that is attached to the continent and forms a continuous flat area of frozen ocean. Such ice is where most of the penguin colonies are found, its flat surface essential for the male penguins who incubate each mating pair’s single egg on their feet.
“Things change very quickly, so we can’t take comfort in having half a million birds at the moment,” Wienecke said. “If the fast ice changes, the birds can end up in a lot of strife very, very quickly.”