Do you want to hear a joke? Alright, here it is: Why are penguins unable to fly?
It’s because they lack the necessary funds to purchase plane tickets!
Okay, so that’s an old joke, but we still enjoy it! And it made us WONDER…why can’t penguins fly? After all, they are birds, right?
Indeed, penguins are flightless birds that reside in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly Antarctica. Unlike the wings of other birds, penguins’ wings resemble flippers, which make them well-suited for life in the water.
In fact, penguins swimming through water looks quite similar to birds soaring through the sky. Their sleek feathers trap air, which increases their buoyancy in the water and shields them from the cold.
Penguins spend approximately equal amounts of time in the water and on land. And their flippers don’t just aid in swimming! When they’re on land, their flippers and tails assist them in maintaining balance and walking upright.
Have you ever witnessed a penguin walking? Their gait resembles more of a waddle, and they don’t move very swiftly. If a penguin wants to move quickly, it slides on its belly! This movement is referred to as “tobogganing,” similar to a northern method of sledding.
Alright, so a penguin’s flippers are highly beneficial. Nevertheless, why can’t they fly? Scientists believe penguins are unable to fly because they likely faced little or no threat from predators in their past. This means they never evolved the ability to fly since they didn’t have anything to flee from. Instead, these birds evolved to become more adapted to aquatic life in order to survive better in their habitat. They relied on the oceans for food, so developing flippers to swim well was more important than growing wings to fly.
In their current form, it’s evident why penguins cannot fly. Their flippers, which are specialized for life in the water, simply cannot lift their adorable, plump bodies into the sky. This is especially true for the largest penguin species, the Emperor Penguin. Emperor Penguins stand over three feet tall and can weigh 75 pounds or more. They would require exceptionally strong wings to soar through the air!
It’s easy to understand why penguins would choose advanced swimming ability over flying. How about you? Would you prefer to glide gracefully through water or through the air? There are definitely advantages to both, as we can see from all our avian friends!
Try It Out
Today’s Wonder of the Day never really took off, but you can continue learning by exploring the following activities with a friend or family member:
If you have a fascination with penguins, you can now experience them even if you can’t visit Antarctica. The Edinburgh Zoo has an online Penguin Cam that allows you to observe penguins going about their daily activities. Share this delightful experience with a friend or family member and discuss the interesting behaviors of these adorable creatures.
For a long time, the reason behind penguins’ remarkable swimming abilities remained a mystery. However, scientists recently made a significant discovery. It turns out that Emperor Penguins possess a unique power: bubble propulsion! To learn more about how these penguins achieve incredible bursts of swimming speed, you can read the article “Plumage releases air to propel body out of the water: Emperor Penguin” on Ask Nature’s website. Afterward, write a paragraph explaining your newfound knowledge.
Are you up for a challenge? Imagine that you are a wealthy and eccentric scientist with a lifelong goal of witnessing a penguin fly. How would you achieve this seemingly impossible feat? Would you travel to Antarctica and teach penguins how to fly? Let your imagination run wild as you write a story about your creative approach to making a penguin take flight. Remember, the sky is the limit… quite literally in this case!
If you are interested in learning more about penguins, you can refer to the following sources:
– http://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/education/ask/index.html?quid=661 (broken link as of January 17, 2019)
– http://www.penguins-world.com/why-penguins-can’t-fly.html (site accessed on January 17, 2019)