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Nature & Environment

Why are penguins unable to fly ?

By T.K. Randall
May 21, 2013 · Comment icon 45 comments

Image Credit: CC 3.0 Samuel Blanc
A team of scientists has been attempting to determine why penguins are unable to take to the skies.
The answer lies in the birds' ability to swim, what they lack in flying skills they make up for while underwater. It turns out that as a species improves its diving capabilities it loses its ability to fly and vice-versa, one has to be sacrificed to become a master of the other.

To determine this the team took a close look at species of seabirds that are able to dive but still maintain at least some ability to fly. "Basically, they have to reduce their wings or grow larger to improve their diving, and both would make flying impossible," said ornithologist Robert Ricklefs.
The researchers tagged murres with recorders that measured the time of dives as well as depth and temperature, and cormorants with data-loggers that measured depth, temperature and acceleration changes during dives.


Source: Nature.com | Comments (45)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #36 Posted by Mistydawn 11 years ago
We humans call them birds, maybe they don't see themselves as birds...
Comment icon #37 Posted by Andromedan Starseed 333 11 years ago
that makes sense but can a bird learn to fly and swim at the same time meaning master both?i believe its possible i do.although i have to admit never seen one that can do both though.but i am sure there are some.like ducks can swim and fly maybe not underwater like penguins but still do to some degree though.penguins are funny though.the way they walk and stuff
Comment icon #38 Posted by Zaphod222 11 years ago
We need scientists to tell something as blazingly obvious as this? Good grief. In their defense, I assume that these scientists were probably laughing their collective behinds off as they were burning through Obama stimulus money for this ridiculous piece of academic waste.
Comment icon #39 Posted by Abramelin 11 years ago
Did you read the article? Reading the comments, I think you, xsas and me are the only ones who actually read the article.
Comment icon #40 Posted by libstaK 11 years ago
We humans call them birds, maybe they don't see themselves as birds... I second that idea - are those wings or flippers?
Comment icon #41 Posted by DKO 11 years ago
Reading the comments, I think you, xsas and me are the only ones who actually read the article. Haha. Well the others miss out. I found the article interesting.
Comment icon #42 Posted by Jacques Terreur 11 years ago
Comment icon #43 Posted by Junior Chubb 11 years ago
Reading the comments, I think you, xsas and me are the only ones who actually read the article. Hey... Did you actually read the comments.
Comment icon #44 Posted by angi chiesa 11 years ago
The shape of a penguin in flight is like that of a CRUISE MISSILE. The stalling speed of this airborne bird would be about the same. To reach this speed our penguin would need a small jet engine. At these speeds the poor chap would be plucked .I think penguins have more sense .
Comment icon #45 Posted by The New Richard Nixon 11 years ago
The shape of a penguin in flight is like that of a CRUISE MISSILE. The stalling speed of this airborne bird would be about the same. To reach this speed our penguin would need a small jet engine. At these speeds the poor chap would be plucked .I think penguins have more sense . Penguin do not fly in the sky


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