What on Earth?
Can you guess what on Earth this close-up photo shows?
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ANSWER: Penguin Feathers!
Did you guess that these were the feathers of the macaroni penguin? Penguins, although they don’t fly, have feathers just like all other birds do. While these feathers don’t help the penguin achieve lift off, they are very important for other reasons!
Penguin feathers are used for insulation, keeping the bird warm in the frigid polar water and wind. Penguins have at least four different types of feathers, all of which contribute to insulation. A penguin’s outer feathers are very closely and evenly packed, unlike in other birds, which have feathers in separate rows.
These overlapping feathers create a barrier against cold wind and water, while the fluffy “after-feathers” trap warm air against the penguin’s body. Because these feathers create a very smooth surface, they also help the penguin to swim even faster!
Finally, a penguin’s distinct coloring (black on its back, white on its belly) helps to camouflage the penguin against both the sky and the water while it swims.
Want to learn about more cold weather animal adaptations?