Adaptations for survival
An adaptation is a way an animal’s body helps it survive and live in its environment.
Yellow-eyed penguins are well designed for life in the sea. They depend on their physical features to help them obtain food, keep safe, build homes, withstand weather and attract mates.
How it helps the yellow-eyed penguin survive
|Heavy, solid bones||These act like a diver’s weight belt, allowing them to stay underwater.|
|Paddle-like flippers||The wings are modified into flattened broadened bones and with the joint of the elbow and wrist almost fused. Penguins propel themselves through the water by flapping their flippers. This helps them “fly” underwater at speeds up to 20 km per hour.|
|Short and wedge-shaped tail||The tail is used as a prop on land or when climbing a steep hill.|
|Short and strong legs with webbed feet||The legs are set far back on the body to aid in streamlining and steering while swimming. This placement also causes penguins to stand vertically and walk upright.|
|Long and thin bill||While the powerful bill is mainly used to catch food such as fish and squid it is also used to preen feathers and as a weapon in fights. The mouth and tongue are lined with backward pointing spines (like those on an arrow) to hold the slippery fish until it is swallowed whole.|
|Short and overlapped feathers to keep water out.||Penguins have more feathers than most other birds to keep them warm in the seawater by providing a waterproof insulating layer. Two layers of waterproof, short, stiff and hooked feathers enable them to lock together, trapping a layer of air between the skin and the feathers. Underneath the outer feathers is a layer of down.Preening consists of keeping the feathers clean and well oiled. There is an oil gland at the tip of the tail and the bill is used to pick up the oil and comb it through the feathers.|
|Layer of blubber||Penguins also have a layer of blubber, or fat, under the skin to help keep them warm.|
|Salt glands||These are located behind the bill on the skull. They excrete the salt in seawater and food.|
|Colour – All adult penguins are countershaded – that is they are dark on the back upper side and white on the underside.||The dark side blends in with the dark ocean depths when viewed from above.The light side blends in with the lighter surface of the sea when viewed from below. A predator looking up from below such as an orca or a leopard seal has difficulty distinguishing between a white penguin belly and the reflective water surface.|
|Keeping cool||The penguins are able to cool themselves by flushing blood through their flippers and feet. (This is why the penguin’s feet turn bright pink on warm days).|