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Scientists discover how emperor penguins rocket through sea

Last Updated: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 18:31

New York: Emperor penguins rocket through water by releasing air from their feathers in the form of tiny bubbles, a new study has found.

Researchers found that penguins would only be able to reach four or nine feet per second otherwise, but they can triple those speeds with their special bubble boost.

Emperor penguins propel through the water, but nobody knew how, until now, the `New York Daily News` reported.

Marine biologists recently unlocked the mystery to their speed - the stream of bubbles left in a penguin`s wake as it jet through the water is the key to its speed.

Penguins can decrease the water resistance surrounding them with their coat of feathers, the report said.

Birds can hold air in their feathers, but penguins specifically can trap air in their dense coat of feathers particularly well, thanks to their miniscule filaments.

When penguins fluff these tiny feathers, they release bubbles that reduce the density of the water surrounding them.

According to the National Geographic, the bubbles act as layer of lubrication to reduce viscosity much like competitive swimsuits.

Roger Hughes, a marine biologist at Bangor University in Wales, had a feeling that this could be the case when he was watching penguins speed through the water in a BBC documentary.

Hughes thought a fellow biologist friend, who studies animal movement, could explain the role, or lack thereof, that bubbles play in penguin speed.

However, that friend, John Davenport at University College Cork in Ireland, did not know no one did, according to National Geographic.

So they enlisted mechanical engineer Poul Larsen from the Technical University of Denmark to help study penguin footage, which led to the discovery.


First Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 18:31
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