A Moment of Science

To Keep Warm, Penguins Do The Wave

By synchronizing movements and huddling with one another, Emperor penguins can stay warm in the coldest place on Earth.

Young penguins pose for the camera

Photo: Martha de Jong-Lantink (Flickr)

Young penguins try to conserve heat and energy by huddling together.

Antarctic’s frigid temperatures are no match for penguin huddles. New research shows that Emperor penguins huddle together and move in a wave to create warmth.

Huddle Up!

Daniel Zitterbart, a PhD physics student at the University of Erlangen-Nüremberg in Germany became interested by the way the huddled group moved.

Zitterbart and other researchers spent an entire winter in 2008 tracking the movements. They used software that was originally designed to follow cancer cells. What they found was amazing.

Do The Wave

Creating the wave and huddling together saved the penguins a lot of energy.

Roughly every 30 to 60 seconds a wave of movement passed through the penguin huddle. The penguins moved only 5 to 10 centimeters to create the wave.

The wave may have other benefits. Researchers think the wave helps a penguin’s blood circulation while standing for long periods of time.

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Margaret Aprison

Margaret is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Telecommunications and a minor in Psychology. The daughter of two scientists, Margaret has been surrounded by the subject her entire life. She enjoys social media, writing, television, and, of course, science!

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