True to the bird species, penguins also have wings. However, it looks distinctly different from the wings of other birds. It makes us wonder, ‘Can penguins fly like other birds?’
The answer is both yes and no. Curious? Read further to unravel the mystery.
Can Penguins Fly?
Like other birds, penguins cannot fly in the air. But they are known for their swimming skills. Due to it, penguins are touted to fly in the water, as demonstrated by their terrific swimming ability.
Why Can’t Penguins Fly? Why Are Penguins Flightless Birds?
Penguins demonstrate all the features of a bird, including wings. Still, they cannot fly and are classified as flightless birds like emu, ostrich, etc.
A prime reason is that penguins have evolved to be aquatic birds as they live in Southern Hemisphere, especially Antarctica.
Their wings have adapted to be more like flippers, making them specialized to live a comfortable life in the water.
Related Read: Evolution Of Birds | How Have Birds Evolved Over Time?
Why Do Penguins Have Wings if They Can’t Fly? What Do They Use It For?
Penguins have wings that have adapted themselves to look like flippers. These help the penguins to swim in water at an amazing speed of 20 miles per hour.
Moreover, their swimming movement in water is exactly like that of a bird flying in the air.
Penguins become more buoyant in water by trapping air with their smooth feathers. It also protects them from cold water. Consequently, they are said to be flying in the water.
They can fly in water that is 20 times denser than air.
Do Penguins Have Wings or Fins?
Penguins do not have fins but wings that have adapted themselves to swim and fly in the water. As a result, they look more like flippers.
Now water is much denser than air. Hence, the penguin’s wings have become shorter and stiffer than any other bird. Furthermore, its wing bones have fused stiff to make the wing powerful and rigid, just like a flipper.
In fact, penguins are unique as being the sole birds that cannot fold their wings.
What Are Penguin Wings Called?
The penguins’ wings have scientifically evolved to become flippers. It is called so as it helps the bird survive better in their habitat.
How Do Penguins Use Their Wings?
Penguins are touted to spend 75% of their lives in water. Due to it, they have become adept swimmers. For it, their wing structures have evolved for swimming.
They move their wings the same way any bird uses their wings to fly in the air. They use their wings or forelimbs for swimming.
First, penguins use the muscles of their chest to flap their wings or flippers downwards. Then, they use the muscles between the shoulders to bring it upwards. In this manner, they propel themselves forward at an amazing speed.
For further help, they keep their body streamlined with their feet under the tail and close to their body, just like a torpedo. Their tail and feet help them change directions and come to a halt.
Do Penguins Fly in The Air?
No, the penguins do not fly in the air. Foremost, their wings have adapted to be more like flippers and are shorter and stiffer.
Secondly, the penguins have a very heavy body with heavy muscles, huge fat supplies, and densely packed feathers. Even their bones have become solid and heavy.
Hence, penguins can’t fly with these features.
Can Penguins Glide?
Because penguins cannot fly, they cannot glide through the air. Instead, they swim in the water. They normally have a slow walk.
If they need to move fast, they slide on their stomach in an energy-conserving movement called ‘tobogganing.’
Do Penguins Fly Underwater or Will They Swim?
Penguins swim extremely fast in the water. But they do not swim like other birds. Their swimming movement is an exact replica of a bird flying in the air. Due to this, penguins are stated to fly underwater.
Related Read: Can Birds Swim? | What Birds Swim Underwater?
Are Penguins the Only Birds That Can Swim?
No, there are other birds that can swim, but no other bird has true flippers like penguins. Pelagic cormorants are swimming birds. Other examples are murres, puffins, and auks.
Birds of the anserdia family like a duck, geese, and swans can both fly and swim.
Did Penguins Ever Fly? Why Did Penguins Stop Flying?
Scientists believe that penguins flew initially, but they lost this ability eons ago.
According to a new study and popular theory of biomechanics, penguins started adapting themselves more to swimming.
As their wings started modifying for it, they started losing their ability to fly. Eventually, penguins stopped flying and became efficient swimmers.
When Did Penguins Stop Flying?
We still do not have any concrete evidence on it but scientists have formulated several hypotheses.
According to one hypothesis, penguins lost their ability to fly even before the polar sheets were formed, about 60 million years ago.
Even, studies of fossils seem to support the penguins’ ability to fly. The penguins’ fossils showed them as having feathered wings and with ability to fly.
The theory is that the penguins did not face any threat of land predators on the south pole like the polar bears present on the North pole. Moreover, they needed to foray into the water in search of food.
This need and lack of threat made swimming an essential requirement. As penguins started adapting to it, they began losing their ability to fly.
Related Read: Birds Flying | 17 Interesting things to know
Is There a Species of Penguin That Can Fly? If Yes, What Species?
No, there are no species of penguins that can fly. We know of around 18 species of penguins around the globe, and they are all flightless birds.
It is believed that ancient penguins could fly, but they lost that ability after trading it with their required swimming adeptness.
Are There Any Birds That Look Like Penguins But Can Fly?
The birds of the Alcidae family look a lot like penguins and can fly. It includes birds like auks, puffins, and murres.
Like penguins that can stand upright and have a black and white body. They are also excellent divers and swimmers like them. But they can also fly, which the penguins cannot do.
Interesting Facts About Penguin Flying
Finally, let’s walk through some interesting facts:
- The flippers of the penguins not only help them to swim in the water but also helps them on the land. The flippers and the tail of the penguins help them stay upright and walk while maintaining their balance.
- One of the reasons why penguins stopped flying is because they needed all their energy to keep warm in the Antarctic and could not spend it on flying, an intense high-energy task.
- During evolution, the penguins’ bones also became solid and heavy from hollow, a trait of flying birds. It made it easier for them to dive into the water.
Well, that was all about penguins flying. We hope you enjoyed learning about them. Do share if we have missed any other interesting facts about penguins flying.