the Penguin Ranch.
penguins on and under the ice.
by Mary K. Miller
cats and dogs are banned from Antarctica, the closest thing
to pets or official mascots around here are the penguins.
The scientiststheyre called beakers
in McMurdo languagemight call them the charismatic
megafauna of the Antarctic, but that doesnt begin
to explain their appeal. They are very curious birds and will
walk right up to people to check them out, giving them a seemingly
friendly demeanor that is rare in the animal world.
perhaps theyre endearing for their beautiful black-and-white
plumage and the comical way they walk around on the ice. Our
McMurdo friend Karen Joyce describes the regal Emperor penguin
as the British bankers of the bird world, waddling around
with their big bellies in front of them. The Adelies are more
like little children scampering around with their pants around
studying animal locomotion have found that the gait of a penguin
is actually quite efficient for moving around on the ice and
jumping over obstacles. But when they really want to go fast,
penguins will flop on their bellies and toboggan over the
Penguins are also remarkable for the ways in which theyve
adapted to the extreme climate of Antarctica. The Emperor
penguins are the only birds that stay here on the continent
all year, exposed to the harshest winter conditions in the
world. In the complete darkness of the polar winter, air temperatures
can drop to below -40 degrees C (-104 degrees F). Its
the job of the male Emperor penguins to incubate and hatch
the eggs in the winter while the females take to the sea to
three months, the males do not eat, but they still manage
to feed the newly hatched chicks with an oily secretion they
produce for that purpose. Fasting, incubating eggs, and feeding
chicks during the coldest part of the Antarctic winter is
an incredible physiological feat that is only possible because
these birds live and feed in one of the most abundant marine
ecosystems on earth.