By Philip Knowling
Torquay, UK - One group of locals is enjoying the cold weather – the penguins at Living Coasts Aquarium.
Torquay’s coastal zoo is home to over 100 penguins. So how do they keep warm? The advice is – lots of layers, huddle together - and get yourself a penguin circulatory system!
Living Coasts Director Elaine Hayes said: “African penguins live on the southern tip of the continent but are used to cold ocean currents. Macaroni penguins come from the southern tip of South America, the Antarctic peninsula and the islands of the sub-Arctic, so they have to weather severe cold.
“Penguins have lots of adaptations to help keep them warm – they have very densely-layered feathers and fat reserves for insulation. Their circulatory system works like a heat-exchanger to retain or shed heat through their blood supply. The black feathers on their backs help absorb any available warmth from the sun.
“They can also do things like tuck their flippers in and huddle together for warmth. In fact, penguins are so good at retaining heat that they have to have good ways of cooling down, too – standing in the shade, panting like dogs, ruffling their feathers. African penguins have bare patches on their legs and faces to lose excess heat.”
Emperor penguins live in the most extreme weather conditions of any warm-blooded animal – they breed in temperatures of -22C and put up with 125 mile an hour winds that would freeze human flesh in seconds. Some penguins have special blood vessels known as shunts in their feet which can be opened and closed to control blood flow and reduce heat loss.