Tag Archives: Adaptations

If Penguins have wings, why can’t they fly?

Penguins are an interesting species of bird that are found in the southern hemisphere of our planet. There are around 17 different types of penguins, and these species are all non-flying. They have a semi-aquatic lifestyle and several characteristics that are very different than other types of birds we commonly know. While other birds have adapted wings for flying, penguins have adapted flipper-like wings to help them swim through the water.

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A large group of penguins in the water is called a “raft” and a large group on land is called a “waddle.”

A penguin’s body is constructed perfectly for aquatic life. They have long, streamlined bodies that help propel them through the water. They spend around 75-80% of their life in the ocean, but will mate, lay eggs and rest on land. Spending this much time in the water puts penguins at a high risk for predators, such as the leopard seal. Penguins’ wings play an essential role in helping them to escape from predators in the water, but not so much on land. This is because there are several differences between birds that use their wings for flight and our non-flying penguin friends.

Many flying bird’s wings are constructed of delicate, lightweight bones that help to lift the bird off the ground to reach flight. However, some species of birds such as the penguin, ostrich, and emu have heavy solid bones that make it harder for them to stay in the air. A penguin’s wings are designed perfectly however for gliding through water. They are often referred to as flippers because of their shape. The wings are super stiff and penguins can actually rotate them in different directions at the same time! This helps them act as the perfect paddle to help catch their prey. They can even reach speeds of up to 22 mph and some species can hold their breath for as long as 20 minutes!

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A penguin using its wings as flippers to glide through the water!

Some scientists believe that a penguin’s inability to fly comes from where they are located. Since penguins have always lived near water millions of years ago, they had to rely upon the ocean for their source of food. Over time they adapted to become more so an aquatic bird, exchanging true wings for “flippers”. Other scientists suggest that getting off the ground took too much effort for a bird that spent so much time in the water. They have over time adapted to their surroundings and decided to become expert swimmers instead of flyers.

Written by: Brooke Fox










Under Pressure

The Deepest part of the ocean is about 36,200 feet or over 11,000 meters, which is deeper than Mt. Everest is tall by about 7,000 feet! Animals that live this deep have a remarkable amount of challenges that they have to adapt to in order to live, such as absence of light, freezing temperatures, and immense increases of pressure. Today we are going to talk about why pressure is increased as you go deeper as well as the effects that it has on many animals that live down there.

Have you ever been on a snorkel or a SCUBA dive and felt pressure on your ears as you go deeper down? Well, if you have, that is actually the air cavities inside your ears shrinking as you go deeper. As a rule of thumb the deeper you go in the ocean the more pressure is being forced onto your body. We normally measure pressure in atmospheres, which is the amount of pressure exerted by the Earth’s atmosphere. At the surface of the ocean we only have 1 atmosphere of pressure pushing down on our bodies. Each atmosphere is equivalent to 14.5 pounds per square inch, meaning you have 14.5 pounds of force pushing down on you right now. However, as you descend in your SCUBA unit or pressurized submarine, the pressure increases by 1 atmosphere every 10 meters (33 feet). So, at the deepest depths of the ocean, you have the weight of an elephant on every inch of your body, OUCH!

So how can animals that live and thrive in the deep depths of the ocean survive these immense pressures and we cannot? Inside of our bodies we have many air cavities that would pop and rigid bones that would snap when exposed to the pressure. So for invertebrates and fish that live in the Marianas Trench the simple solution is to remove the air cavities and have very flexible bones…if any at all! Fish do this by evolving past swim bladders, an organ that normally controls buoyancy. Many invertebrates do this by having hydrostatic skeletons; a fluid filled cavity surrounded by muscle, or no air cavities as well. Marine mammals like deep diving whales have incredibly flexible rib cages that can compress with the pressure and collapsible lungs that can withstand rupturing! This is exactly how Sperm Whales are able to dive down to 7,000 feet deep to battle and eat Giant Squid.



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