Royal Penguins in the Tide


Form and FunctionClose up Picture of a Royal Penguin's Face

The Royal Penguins are a species of penguins which demonstrate great physical traits and adaptations to fit their environment. Most species of penguins live in frigid aquatic and coastal environments, and the Royal Penguin is no exception. In order to sustain life in such conditions, the Royal Penguin has been forced to adapt to survive. These characteristics are no doubt due to environmental factors such as extremely cold temperatures, lack of cover, scarcity of food, and predatory influences.

In order to combat against the frigid elements of their environment, Eudyptes schlegeli has developed a thick layer of blubber which can be up to an inch thick (Donovan 1998.) This thick layer of fatty tissue plays a vital role, allowing the penguins to survive in the extremely cold water. This adaptaition is universal in penguins, along with most marine mammals. The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is an exception to this, being one of Sea Ottersthe only marine mammals that does not have a layer of blubber. Additionally, along with the insulation provided by the blubber, Royal Penguins also rely on their feathers to keep warm. The Royal Penguin’s feathers differ from other species of penguins by being shorter and overlapping. This allows them to be much more effective at keeping the cold water away from their skin, because the shorter feathers are crisscrossed in a mesh like fashion, providing a more protective layer of waterproofing. The orientation of the feathers is important not only for providing a barrier against the cold, but it also provides a smoother surface area. This allows the penguins to have less drag in the water. These feathers also display a great adaptation for the penguins because they are coated in oil. This oil aids the penguins by keeping the water from soaking the feathers and freezing the bodies of these birds during long swims and dives. The oil is emitted from a gland near the tail. Yet another adaptation can be seen in the feathers of these flightless birds when examining the downy layer of feathers which coat the skin. The downy layer actually traps air against the body of the Royal Penguins. This air is then heated by the body and provides great insulation to help keep them warm in the frigid environment.

The Royal Penguin, like other penguins, is an extremely exceptional swimmer. They can dive up to 150 meters deep and swim at speeds up to 20 mph (Carruthers, 2006). Some adaptations that allow this species to swim so much faster than other species can be seen in the feathers,Wing size bone structure, and their unique wing size. The feathers, as previously mentioned provide an aerodynamic quality to allow for less drag in the water. Eudyptes schlegeli also have smaller wings in respect to their body size. This allows them to dive faster and farther than other species. Their wings are fused straight, unlike the curvature of flying birds such as those of Falco peregrinus, which allows them to behave more like flippers than traditional wings. Shorter straighter wing structure also enables them to be more powerful and agile in the water. The Royal Penguins have solid bones which help them to dive by acting as a ballast  to help them to descend faster, as well as providing prevention from breakage from the stress exerted on them while swimming. The Royal Penguin also has a streamlined body structure, which of course aids them by allowing them to be much more agile in the water. Able to stay submerged for several minutes, the Royal Penguin utilizes a higher level of myoglobin in the blood stream which allows them to store more oxygen during these long dives.submerged penguins use feather color as camoflage
Adult Royal Penguins do not have many land predators because they spend most of their lives at sea (see habitat). In order to help them avoid predators in the water, the penguin utilizes the color of their feathers as a form of camouflage. From the depths of the sea, these birds can be tough to spot by lurking predators such as whales and seals because the white underbellies blend in with the lighter surface of the water. The same type of camouflage can be seen from the dorsal view of the swimming Eudyptes schlegeli because the black back blends in quite nicely with the dark depths of the ocean. Also, it is believed by many biologists that the vision of the Royal Penguin is better underwater than on land. This helps them to find food and locate predators while swimming.



Royal Penguins swimming underwater


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