13 January 2014

Emperor penguins traffic jam

Photo by Kelvin Cope

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri ) are endemic in the Antarctic and are known to breed in winter. In order to survive the cold winds, penguins huddle together without moving to create a tightly packed unit [2]. This allows them to conserve energy and maintain their body temperature [2].

Huddle movement is also observed where directional movements may originate from any huddle caused by a single penguin. This movement was even compared to a traffic jam [1]. The small forward movement by cars in traffic situations are the same with 2 cm movements of penguins within a huddle [1]. This movement causes their neighbour to move a step closer in the same direction, in the end merging small huddles with the bigger huddles [1, 2].

To know more about Emperor penguins, visit SeaLifeBase.
[1] IOP Institute of Physics (2013) Traffic jams lend insight into emperor penguin huddle. http://www.iop.org/news/13/dec/page_62141.html [Accessed 19 December 2013].

[2] Zitterbart DP, Wienecke B, Butler JP, Fabry B (2011) Coordinated Movements Prevent Jamming in an Emperor Penguin Huddle. PLoS ONE 6(6): e20260.

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