Why Can’t Penguins Fly?
Have you ever wondered why penguins can’t fly? Surprisingly, they are some of the only species of birds that cannot fly! Penguins are aquatic, flightless birds that live in the Southern Hemisphere of the planet, especially in Antarctica. Unlike the wings of other birds, however, their wings are more like flippers that help them swim in the water, which is why they live near the water in Antarctica.
In fact, the way penguins swim through water looks quite similar to the way birds fly through the sky. The smooth feathers on their wings trap air, allowing them to be more buoyant and float in the water. These feathers also protect them from the cold water, helping them feel more warm. This is perfect for penguins, since they spend about half of their time in the water, and the other half on land.
Another way penguins adapt to not flying is by walking. However, they’re not that good at walking, since it is not very fast. Have you seen how penguins waddle from side to side? If they want to move faster, penguins actually slide across the land on their belly! This is a type of movement called “tobogganing,” named after a method of sledding.
Scientists believe that the reason penguins can’t fly is because they likely had little to no threat from predators in their past, so they never had to evolve and develop the ability to fly because they never had anything to fly away from! Instead, penguins evolved to become more aquatic, and developed flippers to help them swim and find food in the vast ocean. Some scientists hypothesize that penguins actually did have the ability to fly, but eventually it started taking up too much effort. Since they were becoming expert swimmers at the same time, penguins eventually stopped flying, so they evolved without wings into even better swimmers!
As they are now, penguins are simply too heavy for their flipper-like wings to get them into the sky. This is especially true for Emperor Penguins, which can grow to be over three feet tall and weigh over 75 pounds!