Penguins Can Be Colder Than Their Surroundings

Thermal imaging of emperor penguins in Antarctica shows that, in still conditions, large portions of their bodies remain colder than ambient temperatures. In the image above, the heads, beaks, eyes, and flippers of this pair of penguin are the warmest while much of their feathered surface remains several degrees colder than the temperature around them. Not only does this indicate that the penguins’ skin and feathers are extremely effective insulators–the core temperature of each penguin is roughly the same as a human’s–but it means that the penguins are losing heat via radiative cooling toward the sky, the same way your car does when frost forms. The measurements in the study are for penguins at least one body length away from any other penguins; of course penguins typically huddle together to generate additional warmth. The mathematics of this behavior are under active research. (Photo credit: D. McCafferty et al.; via Wired)

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