Stuck in the huddle with you
Thursday 23 January 1997
During a study of the animals at the beginning of the Antarctic winter, scientists began wondering why it was that the male penguins - which must remain motionless for more than three months in temperatures way below freezing and howling blizzards if their eggs are to stand a chance of hatching - gathered in large groups without resorting to violence.
They have to stay with the egg while the female penguin builds up a store of food. But she only returns to her mate, and her egg, once the incubation is over. That allows the male to leave the group and forage for food again.
In other animals, such a gathering of males would tend to spark off fights, since there would be an advantage in destroying a rival animal's egg and so producing a better chance of there being food to nourish the survivor's chick.
But the team, from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, found that huddling has distinct advantages for the penguin, which warms the egg between a roll of fat under its stomach and its feet. Being in a group shelters the penguin from the biting wind, meaning that they use 25 per cent less energy than if they were on their own in the open.
Without huddling, emperor penguins would reach "the metabolic status that would trigger refeeding" - as the team described extreme hunger - three weeks before the egg hatched. The size of the group is also important: while being on the outside of any group would never be pleasant, a small group cannot huddle efficiently, the scientists found.
Eventually, the team decided that the penguins' behaviour is possible because unlike many other male animals, they are not territorial. Happy huddling allows them to breed in one of the coldest places on Earth.
- 1 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
Russell Brand accuses Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
Justin Bieber posts Instagram photo of a crying Orlando Bloom after Ibiza fight 'over Miranda Kerr'
Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
Air Algerie AH5017 crash: Jet fell 30,000 feet in three minutes ‘due to violent storm’
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
- < Previous
- Next >
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: KENT MARKET TOWN - An exciting new role has ar...
£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...
£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...
£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...