One for all and all for one is the motto to follow if you’re an Emperor Penguin in Antarctica, where temperatures drop to 50 below zero in the winter months. Scientists are watching a new video to study the physics of these large penguins as they huddle in groups to stay warm. The video is sped up to see how the entire group slowly moves as a whole.
It’s no surprise that the reason why the penguins huddle is due to the cold but the way they move individually and as a group is what interest scientists. If you don’t already know, male Emperor Penguins actually care for the unhatched eggs of their offspring, balancing them between their feet and body to keep them warm. They huddle in groups to block against the cold winds of the Antarctic, tightly packed together to conserve body heat and prevent drafts, slowly moving to rotate their single eggs.
Biologist and physicists, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, have worked together to created a mathematical model to begin to understand the physics of the massive huddle. The models suggest that huddles behave like waves with individual penguins as the source. They also discovered that any gaps in the huddle larger than just two centimeters wide initiates a reorganization of the group.
The more scientist learn about the movement of the Emperor Penguin, the better prepared we will be to conserve populations in the future against a warming world.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Emperor Penguin has been recently put at near threatened levels. A survey administered by satellite in 2009 estimates the wild population at about 595,000 individuals. The change in status is due to the expectation that penguin populations will rapidly decline in future generations as climate change is predicted to decrease sea ice, their natural habitat.
For now, the focus is on studying the shuffling tuxedo clad penguins and how they’re perfectly synchronized movements keeps the whole group warm. It’s pretty cool to see a large group of any species work together for the whole, especially in the cold barren ice sheets of the Antarctic.