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Keeping Cool in Antarctica

January 20, 2023

Keeping Cool in Antarctica

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Sarah Edmunds Sarah Edmunds

I was overcome with emotion and pure joy the moment I first stepped my thoroughly-decontaminated boots on Barrientos Island in the South Shetlands. I was surrounded by a colony of gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) with their adorable, fuzzy chicks.

Among the thousands of penguin parents tending to nests containing one or two recently-hatched chicks, this family stuck out to me. It reminded me of a parent yelling at their reluctant kids to get up for school. It also looked like the chicks were possibly sick or starving. I asked one of my tour group’s naturalists, concerned. I learned that the chicks weren’t dying or being dramatic—they were likely cooling off. Antarctic penguins are so well adapted for the cold that they can overheat, especially on land and in the summer. Like other penguin species, gentoos give off heat primarily through their feet and their flippers. Lying on their bellies with their flippers extended is one tactic for keeping cool.

EDITORS NOTE: Today is Penguin Awareness Day (January 20th); To celebrate visit the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, and the New York Aquarium to see penguins up close and learn more about these social birds.

Canon EOS Rebel T5i 55-250mm Zoom Telephoto

Barrientos Island, Antarctica Map It


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