Penguin huddling found to be more complicated than thought


emperor penguin
A team of researchers from several institutions in France and one in Germany has found that emperor penguin huddles are more complicated than has been thought by many in the science community. In their paper published in the journal Animal Behaviour, the team describes their study of the penguins over three separate breeding seasons and what they learned by looking at video of penguin huddling.

Male emperor huddling to keep themselves and eggs laid by an absent mate warm, has been made famous by the documentary March of the Penguins—they stand, seemingly stoically against the onslaught of bitter cold and frigid wind. Their actions seemed all the more interesting when it was learned that they shift about, moving members from the outside edges towards the center to share the burden of keeping warm. Now it appears that such images may be only part of the story. In this new research effort, the researchers discovered that penguin huddles don’t last very long because the penguins actually get too hot.

The team studied approximately 3000 emperor penguins living and huddling in Antarctica’s Pointe Géologie Archipelago colony over the years 2005 and 2006 and then again in 2008. In studying the video recordings they made, they discovered that huddling typically only lasted on average from twelve minutes to a few hours, and the average length of time an individual penguin spent in a huddle was just 50 minutes. They also found that temperatures inside the huddle could get hot, sometimes reaching nearly 100°F under certain conditions. What’s more, they discovered that it typically only took action by a single member to cause the huddle to disperse, and that the individual was generally one on the outside edges.

Backing up their theory that it was excessive heat that caused the huddles to disperse, the team found that soon after separating, a haze of warm air was released, and some of the penguins ate some snow, apparently attempting to cool off faster.

The team reports that they were surprised to discover that it was generally an outlier that instigated the breakup of huddles, but suggest that may have been because those in the center were trapped by the others around them.

 

Abstract
Social thermoregulation is a cooperative strategy in which animals actively aggregate to benefit from the warmth of conspecifics in response to low ambient temperatures. Emperor penguins, Aptenodytes forsteri, use this behaviour to ensure their survival and reproduction during the Antarctic winter. An emperor penguin colony consists of a dynamic mosaic of compact zones, the so-called huddles, included in a looser network of individuals. To maximize energy savings, birds should adjust their huddling behaviour according to environmental conditions. Here, we examined the dynamics of emperor penguin aggregations, based on photo and video records, in relation to climatic factors. Environmental temperature, wind and solar radiation were the main factors contributing to huddle formation. The analysis of individual movements showed that birds originating from loose aggregations continually joined huddles. Sometimes, a small number of birds induced a movement that propagated to the entire huddle, causing its breakup within 2 min and releasing birds, which then integrated into looser aggregations. Different parts of the colony therefore appeared to continually exchange individuals in response to environmental conditions. A likely explanation is that individuals in need of warmth join huddles, whereas individuals seeking to dissipate heat break huddles apart. The regular growth and decay of huddles operates as pulses through which birds gain, conserve or lose heat. Originally proposed to account for reducing energy expenditure, the concept of social thermoregulation appears to cover a highly dynamic phenomenon that fulfils a genuine regulatory function in emperor penguins.

Meet the BATKID.


Thousands of people in San Francisco have turned out to help a boy recovering from leukaemia fulfil his wish to be Batman for a day.

Miles Scott, five, participated in events across the city including fighting mock crimes and receiving an honour from the mayor.

Make-A-Wish Foundation, which organised the event, received pledges from more than 10,000 people to lend a hand.

Miles, in treatment for several years, is now said to be in remission.

According to local television, the youngster thought he was just on his way to get a Batman costume so he could dress like his favourite superhero.

Miles nabs villains

But then he heard a broadcast from San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr appealing for help from “Batkid”.

“Start Quote

This wish has meant closure for our family and an end to over three years of putting toxic drugs in our son’s body”

Natalie Miles’ mother

Next, the pint-sized superhero saved a “damsel in distress”, tied to cable car tracks along a major urban street.

A San Francisco Chronicle live blog of the day’s events showed hundreds of people cheering Miles on during the “rescue”.

Miles was ferried from events in one of two “Batmobiles“, or black Lamborghinis with Batman removable stickers, which were escorted by police.

Later, he foiled a faux robbery in the city’s financial district with the help of an adult Batman impersonator.

Authorities who participated in the day’s events pretended to apprehend the villain, the Riddler.

Miles also travelled to AT&T Park to rescue the San Francisco Giants baseball team mascot by disarming a fake bomb planted by another classic Batman baddie, the Penguin.

‘Military operation’

The US justice department even prepared an indictment for the Riddler and the Penguin.

Miles Scott in an undated photo
Miles Scott is now in remission following treatment for leukaemia

Towards the end of the day San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee gave Miles a key to the city.

US President Barack Obama praised the mini-caped crusader in a video from the White House, saying: “Way to go, Miles! Way to save Gotham.”

An estimated 7,000 people turned up to help make Miles’ wish come true.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation said the event was “on the scale of a military operation”.

In real life, Miles has defeated an enemy even more ruthless than Batman’s nemeses – he is presently recovering from leukaemia, with which he was diagnosed at 18 months old.

His mother, Natalie, said Friday was a “celebration” of her son’s completion of treatment in June.

“This wish has meant closure for our family and an end to over three years of putting toxic drugs in our son’s body,” she wrote in a statement on the foundation’s website.

His father, Nick Scott, thanked the charity and everyone else who took part.

“All the doctors, nurses and all the other parents that have to deal with the same thing we’re going through, I hope they get a conclusion to their illnesses like we’re getting,” he told KGO-TV.

Miles Scott (right), walks with a man dressed as Batman in San Francisco, California on 15 November 2013  Crime never stops, but thankfully neither does Batkid – here’s the pint-sized superhero, aka Miles Scott, on his way to foil another dastardly deed
Miles Scott, dressed as Batkid, exits the Batmobile with Batman to save a damsel in distress in San Francisco, on 15 November 2013 The mini-caped crusader leaps from the Batmobile for his next caper
Batkid is hugged after rescuing a woman in distress in San Francisco on 15 November 2013 Batkid is hugged by a “damsel in distress” he has just rescued
A man dressed as The Riddler is taken away by a San Francisco police officer after being apprehended by five-year-old leukaemia survivor Miles dressed as Batkid in San Francisco on 15 November 2013 Kapow! Take that, the Riddler. That’ll teach you to mess with Batkid
Kayla Fry holds a sign as she waits to see five-year-old leukemia survivor Miles Scott in San Francisco on 15 November 2013 Miles’ adoring public are lost in admiration for his indefatigable heroics
This Friday, 15 November 2013 image released by the San Francisco Chronicle shows a front page of the Gotham City Chronicle to honour Miles Scott, as Batkid The San Francisco Chronicle transformed its masthead into the Gotham City Chronicle to honour Miles, with a front-page story penned by “Clark Kent”
The Penguin holds the San Francisco Giants mascot Lou Seal captive as they wait for the arrival of five-year-old leukemia survivor Miles, aka "Batkid" 15 November 2013 Holy smoke! The Penguin’s trying to make Giants mascot Lou Seal a Los Angeles Dodgers fan – a crime justice officials said was “in violation of all laws of Gotham City”. And he almost got away with it…
Batkid confronts the Penguin at AT&T Park on 15 November 2013 …until Batkid showed up
Batkid is congratulated by the cops at AT&T Park on 15 November 2013 Batkid takes a moment to accept the gratitude of the cops for his services to Gotham
Batkid speak to a fan at AT&T Park on 15 November 2013 And as he leaves the Giants stadium, Miles explains to a fan how he did it
Batkid smiles after apprehending The Riddler in San Francisco on 15 November 2013
We salute you, Batkid

Batkid saves San Francisco as charity makes a wish come true.


Thousands volunteer to help five-year-old leukaemia patient battle The Riddler and Penguin on a day of realised dreams
Miles Scott, dressed as Batkid
Miles Scott, dressed as Batkid, right, runs with Batman after saving a damsel in distress in San Francisco.

San Francisco was beset by a wave of crime on Friday, as a woman was taken hostage and tied to cable car tracks, a criminal calling himself the Riddler attempted to rob a bank vault, and a miscreant known as Penguin generally made a nuisance of himself in the downtown area.

Happily, each incident was staged: an attempt on the part the charity Make-a-Wish to give five-year-old Miles Scott, who is recovering from leukaemia, a memorable day assisting his favourite superhero.

San Francisco’s mayor and police were among thousands involved in an extraordnary day that gripped the city and caught the attention of the White House. Miles’s day began with a fraught message from police chief Greg Suhr, alerting “Batkid” to the various criminal activities and pleading with him to assist. Miles acquiesced, and was collected by a man dressed as Batman who was driving a vehicle which bore a passing resemblance to the Batmobile.