Emperor Penguin can stay under water for up to 27 minutes, new research reveals

September 1, 2013
Diving Emperor Penguins are shown during a foraging trip from the Cape Washington colony in Antarctica. Credit: Paul Ponganis, University of California

New research has revealed how the Emperor Penguin is able to dive to depths of over 500m and stay under water for up to 27 minutes – deeper and longer than any of its fellow avian species.

Researchers from the University of California will be presenting their new findings at the International Penguin Conference (IPC) which begins in Bristol today [02 September].

It's the first time the conference has been held in Europe, with 200 delegates from 30 countries sharing their latest research and knowledge at the University of Bristol and Bristol Zoo Gardens between 2 and 6 September.

Alexandra Wright and Dr Paul Ponganis investigated the heart rate response of Emperor Penguins as they made foraging trips to see from the Cape Washington Colony in Antarctica.

They measured heart rates using an electrocardiogram (ECG) recorder and looked at dive behaviour with a time depth recorder (TDR) and found that the penguins slow their heart from the normal rate of around 70 beats per minute to as low as 10 beats per minute.

Emperor Penguins also have unusually structured hemoglobin to allow it to function at low , solid bones to reduce barotrauma - physical damage to body tissues caused by a difference in pressure between a gas space inside, or in contact with the body, and the surrounding fluid, and the ability to reduce metabolism and to shut down non-essential organ functions.

The profound decline in heart rate - known as bradycardia – decreases , conserves the respiratory and stores, and isolates muscle, which must rely instead on its own oxygen store which is bound to the muscle protein, myoglobin.

Although this heart rate response contrasts with other birds and terrestrial mammals, it is similar to the dive response of marine mammals.

Explore further: Want to monitor climate change? P-p-p-pick up a penguin!

More information: Britain is to host the International Penguin Conference from 2 to 6 September in Bristol.

Related Stories

Want to monitor climate change? P-p-p-pick up a penguin!

April 4, 2007

We are used to hearing about the effects of climate change in terms of unusual animal behaviour, such as altering patterns of fish and bird migration. However, scientists at the University of Birmingham are trying out an ...

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Study shows female frogs susceptible to 'decoy effect'

August 28, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers has found that female túngaras, frogs that live in parts of Mexico and Central and South America, appear to be susceptible to the "decoy effect." In their paper published in the journal ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Egleton
not rated yet Sep 02, 2013
Ah Ha. . .So that is why it wouldn't talk when I waterboarded it.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.