How do penguins react to warm climates


Penguins have spread across the southern hemisphere. The different types are adapted to the most varied of temperatures. The emperor penguin defies double-digit minus degrees in the Antarctic, while the Galapagos penguins have to withstand temperatures of around 30 ° C in the area of ​​the equator.

How do penguins keep warm?

Birds are animals of the same temperature, just like we mammals. The body temperature of birds is generally a few degrees higher than that of mammals. Since penguins are birds, they too have a body temperature that is constantly between 37 and 40 ° C and a little higher or lower depending on their activity. In very cold habitats like Antarctica, maintaining this temperature seems very difficult. But thanks to special adaptations, the penguins living there still manage to do this without consuming too much energy.
Own penguins Heat insulators like feathers and a layer of fat that prevent too much heat from being lost from their bodies to the environment. By putting up the feathers, a protective layer of air is formed in front of the skin, which means that less body heat escapes to the outside, because air is a poor conductor of heat. When it is very cold, the penguins stand very close to each other. This creates large bunches of penguins in which there is constant movement: after all, everyone wants to stand in the warm middle!
So that the cold water does not reduce the thermal insulation of the feathers when swimming, penguins and other sea birds spread oil on their bodies while cleaning. Because water and oil do not mix, the water is repelled. So the water cannot store itself between the feathers and the insulation through the air layer between the skin and the feathers is preserved.

The countercurrent principle

Since the feet are not overgrown with feathers and they are in direct contact with the cold ground, there is a great risk of heat loss there. But here, too, nature has come up with something: That Countercurrent principle. In the penguins' feet, the arteries (blood vessels away from the heart) and the veins (blood vessels back to the heart) run very close together. Oxygen-rich, warm blood enters the foot through the arteries. On the way there, this heat is given off to nearby veins. As a result, only cold blood reaches the bottom of the foot. This effect is reinforced by the fact that the cooled venous blood in the foot continues to cool the arterial blood.

Why don't penguins stick to the ice?

All in all, penguins always have cold feet and therefore the Antarctic species do not stick to the ice. If they were warm, the warm foot would melt the ice lying around. Due to the cold ambient temperature, the water would freeze again immediately. The poor penguin would then freeze.

Adjustments to high temperatures

In contrast to the Antarctic penguin species, there are also those that make their home in warmer areas. These are adapted to higher outside temperatures. Penguins pantwhen it's too warm for them. In their book "Biologie", Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece explain: "Some birds have a pocket in the floor of their mouth that is well supplied with blood, and the flapping movements of this pocket support evaporation." (P.1170).

Adaptations to warm and cold environments

There are also penguin species, such as Humboldt, Magellan and Galapagos penguins, which are warm and have to live in cold temperatures. On land in South America it is warm in summer, the penguins then give off a lot of warmth through their feet and wings. These parts of the body are then supplied with blood, which can be recognized by the pink color of the underside of the wing. However, the water is rather cold due to the Humboldt Current flowing there. This is why feet and wings are only weakly supplied with blood when swimming in order to save heat.

Bergmann's rule

If you compare the sizes of the different penguin species, you can see that penguins are getting bigger and bigger from the equator to Antarctica. The Bergmann's rule explains: Compared to their volume, larger penguins have a smaller surface area than smaller penguins. Since heat is given off via the surface, the heat loss in larger penguins is less.

General information taken from the book "Biology" by Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece, 8th edition