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Emperor penguin body surfaces cool below air temperature

McCafferty, D J; Gilbert, C; Thierry, A M; Currie, John; Le Maho, Y; Ancel, A


D J McCafferty

C Gilbert

A M Thierry

Y Le Maho

A Ancel


Emperor penguins Aptenodytes forsteri are able to survive the harsh Antarctic climate because of specialized anatomical, physiological and behavioural adaptations for minimizing heat loss. Heat transfer theory predicts that metabolic heat loss in this species will mostly depend on radiative and convective cooling. To examine this, thermal imaging of emperor penguins was undertaken at the breeding colony of Pointe Géologie in Terre Adélie (668400 S 1408 010 E), Antarctica in June 2008. During clear sky conditions, most outer surfaces of the body were colder than surrounding sub-zero air owing to radiative cooling. In these conditions, the feather surface will paradoxically gain heat by convection from surrounding air. However, owing to the low thermal conductivity of plumage any heat transfer to the skin surface will be negligible. Future thermal imaging studies are likely to yield further insights into the adaptations of this species to the Antarctic climate.


McCafferty, D. J., Gilbert, C., Thierry, A. M., Currie, J., Le Maho, Y., & Ancel, A. (2013). Emperor penguin body surfaces cool below air temperature. Biology Letters, 9, 20121192-20121192.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 1, 2013
Publication Date 2013
Deposit Date Jan 22, 2016
Print ISSN 1744-9561
Publisher Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Pages 20121192-20121192
Keywords Metabolic heat loss; thermal imaging; thermoregulation; Antarctic;
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