Flipping for penguin flippers!

05/09/2012 19:14

Penguins are so specialized for swimming that instead of wings for flying through the air, they have flippers that propel them swiftly through the water!  We set out to discover if all flippers are created equal or if species have differences in flipper shape that might affect their swimming efficiency.  We measured flippers from museum specimens and live penguins to compare the aspect ratio, a quantitative way to express 'long and narrowness' of the flippers.  In either air or water, long and narrow wings or flippers mean greater efficiency (move more air/water with less drag).  Various penguin species differ in body size, habitat, and swimming behavior so we wanted to see if patterns in flipper shape might be tied to evolutionary history, body size, or to ecology. 


More to come soon!  Stay tuned...

For more adventures and photos from Phillip Island see Adventure.

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