Life Lines

i-2002c0beef5e6697dc1a75589364c69f-Screen shot 2010-09-21 at 9.42.50 AM.pngI just watched a re-run of the movie March of the Penguins…so cute! The movie documents how emperor penguins survive their long winter fast while incubating eggs. In fact, researchers have shown that penguins spend about half their time huddling with other penguins. This allows them to lower their metabolic rate by as much as 25%. To better understand this, Drs. Caroline Gilbert, Yvon le Maho, Andre Ancel (Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, Strasbourg) and Martine Perret (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, France) measured the deep body temperatures of free ranging penguins throughout their breeding cycle. They found that while huddling, the penguins were able to lower their core body temperatures. Those penguins that were incubating eggs maintained a higher body temperature than those that were not incubating eggs to allow for a successful incubation. The researchers concluded that huddling appears to prevent hypothermia from the cold weather by reducing the surface area of the birds exposed to the cold as well as prevent hyperthermia resulting from huddling. To read more visit the press release from The American Physiological Society. Sadly huddling with other humans does not appear to have the same core body temperature lowering effect as it does in penguins. So it looks like I will still need the air conditioner on this summer after all.

Comments

  1. #1 NoAstronomer
    September 21, 2010

    I would have thought that the main point of reducing metabolic rate, and therefore core temperature, was to conserve energy. The birds are on the brink of starvation by the time their mates return.

    I can’t imagine hyperthermia being much of a problem in an Antarctic winter no matter how much you huddled. Or with who.

  2. #2 Kennesaw Plumber
    September 22, 2010

    Well humans have no attachment or reason to be in a cold environment any way