Study: Fat Penguins Are Unstable, Have Trouble Finding Mates, and Cheat on Treadmills

SGI-2016-South_Georgia_(Fortuna_Bay)–King_penguin_(Aptenodytes_patagonicus)_04170px-Penguins_Edinburgh_Zoo_2004_SMCAcademics often get a raw deal when people question public accounts of research that seems frivolous or obvious. Often it is not. That may be the case with the research of Professor Astrid Willener and the team from the University of London. The team studied fat and svelte penguins and discovered that fat King penguins are unsteady on their feet while waddling. Fat penguins were also found to be caught more easily. While the films of fat penguins on a treadmill were worth watching just for the novelty, some may be less surprised by the finding that fat penguins are easier to catch and less likely to find mates. The study does show that some realities cross species lines.

The life sciences team travelled to the subantarctic region of Antarctica to research the king penguin. They found that ten male king penguins who were in courtship and who weighed more than 12kg were captured near the shoreline at the edge of a colony. On the treadmill, the Rubenesque penguins did about as poorly as portly humans: “being too fat make them less stable and thus easily spotted and eaten by predators . . . So understanding the biomechanics of how penguins deal with walking with an additional quarter of their usual weight, while still being quiet stable, is very interesting.”

The team then put the portly penguins on a fast and worked them out on the treadmill. It turns out that some (like humans) did not cooperate and some “cheated”: “Sometimes the penguins were lazy and ‘water-skied’ on the treadmill by leaning their back on the back wall of the treadmill. That is obviously not good for the data collection.”

The team concluded that penguins waddled with more agility at a lower weight, but adapted well to be able to handle waddling while heavier, even if they were not as efficient and less stable.

Thus, weight gain is a useful adaptive mechanism for surviving long periods of fasting but “it is a trade-off between putting on weight to fast longer, in case there is a delay in finding a penguin partner to mate with, and still being able to walk, because if they can’t walk steady, they fall and will be spotted and eaten alive by predators. However, pedestrian locomotion is only their secondary locomotion mode.”

Most middle-aged endomorphic men might have been able to confirm those findings at a neighborhood pub. Weight gain certainly can interfere with finding a mate, makes you less stable, and easier to attack. Fortunately, humans have Photoshop to help with pictures on eHarmony during mating season.

Source: Guardian

10 thoughts on “Study: Fat Penguins Are Unstable, Have Trouble Finding Mates, and Cheat on Treadmills”

  1. Well, this is a sad one. Oh well, an Irish Poem for the poor overweight King Penquins. . .

    Ebb And Floe???
    An Irish Poem by Squeeky Fromm

    Alas, Aptenodytes Patagonicus!
    When your weight exceeds two stone-icus.
    Researchers will twaddle,
    About your poor waddle,
    And Queen Penquins leave you alone-icus!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    Note. FWIW, 12 kilograms equals 1.88968 stone, which is why “exceeds two stone-icus” is in line two above. If you are interested in converting kilograms or pounds to “stones”, just type “stone weight converter” into your google search, and it will come up. A Girl Reporter has to know stuff like this.

  2. And you can explain to human subjects why they need to do a treadmill test without cheating.

    To a penguin (and most of the rest of us), the whole exercise is stupid and pointless, and the smartest ones would figure out how to waterski or otherwise cheat the treadmill.

  3. You would think penguin females would be attracted to overweight penguin males. In such a sparse environment, their fishing prowess must be phenomenal for them to achieve so much extra weight. They should be able to barf up plenty of food for any future offspring. I would estimate them to have an increased barfing potential, and hence superior attraction.

  4. The study doesn’t take into account the one highly significant difference found in the human, male, overweight, waddling counterpart–one which doesn’t exist in the penguin world–and that is the ability to accumulate and display WEALTH. Human males, regardless of appearance, have no problems finding a mate, or any assortment of females, IF those males are exceedingly wealthy. Now, if only those tuxedos, that those penguins insist upon wearing, had pockets for wallets, then you’d be able to compare apples to apples. Until then, you have nothing but a story about fat, cheating penguins.

  5. Seems to be worthwhile research considering penguins spend a significant amount of time in the water where “portliness” doesn’t much matter. And why not study the largest penguin species, the Emperor Penguin, if one really wanted data on chubby birds?

  6. Short People
    By: Randy Newman

    Short people got no reason
    Short people got no reason
    Short people got no reason
    To live
    They got little hands
    And little eyes
    And they walk around
    Tellin’ great big lies
    They got little noses
    And tiny little teeth
    They wear platform shoes
    On their nasty little feet
    Well, I don’t want no short people
    Don’t want no short people
    Don’t want no short people
    Round here
    Short people are just the same
    As you and I
    (a fool such as i)
    All men are brothers
    Until the day they die
    (it’s a wonderful world)
    Short people got nobody
    Short people got nobody
    Short people got nobody
    To love
    They got little baby legs
    And they stand so low
    You got to pick ’em up
    Just to say hello
    They got little cars
    That got beep, beep, beep
    They got little voices
    Goin’ peep, peep, peep
    They got… Full lyrics on Google Play

  7. Fat Penguins got no reason to live!
    They got little bitty eyes..
    Little bitty feet.
    Little bitty voices that go peep peep peep.

    Dont want no Fat Penguins.
    Dont want no Fat Penguins round here.

    –from Short People by Randy Newman

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