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, 231 (3), 903-12

Energy Expenditure for Thermoregulation and Locomotion in Emperor Penguins

Energy Expenditure for Thermoregulation and Locomotion in Emperor Penguins

B Pinshow et al. Am J Physiol.


During the antarctic winter emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) spend up to four mo fasting while they breed at rookeries 80 km or more from the sea, huddling close together in the cold. This breeding cycle makes exceptional demands on their energy reserves, and we therefore studied their thermoregulation and locomotion. Rates of metabolism were measured in five birds (mean body mass, 23.37 kg) at ambient temperatures ranging from 25 to -47 degrees C. Between 20 and -10 degrees C the metabolic rate (standard metabolic rate (SMR)) remained neraly constant, about 42.9 W. Below -10 degrees C metabolic rate increased lineraly with decreasing ambient temperature and at -47 degrees C it was 70% above the SMR. Mean thermal conductance below -10 degrees C was 1.57 W m-2 degrees C-1. Metabolic rate during treadmill walking increased linearly with increasing speed. Our data suggest that walking 200 km (from the sea to the rookery and back) requires less than 15% of the energy reserves of a breeding male emperor penguin initially weighing 35 kg. The high energy requirement for thermoregulation (about 85%) would, in the absence of huddling, probably exceed the total energy reserves.

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