People normally think of Penguins as cold weather animals; and they are. Some may live in warmer climates, but in general the Penguin lives in some of the coldest regions of the Earth. The question for today is, how do penguins and other animals not only survive, but thrive, in such frigid conditions.
The average temperature in the Antarctic is a very chilly -58 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, Penguins never can forget to wear their cold weather gear. The penguin has a layer of blubber just below the skin that insulates its body. They then have a layer of downy feathers under an upper layer of feathers which overlaps and adds another layer of protection. When the birds go swimming or there is wet precipitation they have glands under their wings that contain oil which gives them a water tight seal. Try to imagine trying to endure that type of cold. Even with the protection of a house it would be difficult to stay warm. Scientists who study the region have to wear layers of clothing even when they are in doors.
What if you spent your entire life in the water? I don’t mean on the water, such as in a boat, but actually constantly in the water. In some regions, because of the warm currents from the South, water can be relatively warm year-round. However, in the Northern Pacific water temperatures never get much above 60 degrees. Thus, when you are swimming in the water, it lowers your body temperature and makes you feel even colder. A sea otter can spend every moment of its life in the ocean. From the time it is born until it dies some otters never touch dry land. These otters have to have a system of fur that will allow them to stay in very cold water without chilling them. The sea otter has two layers of very dense fur. The inner is short and dry. The outer layer of fur is made up of guard fur which overlaps and allows an air barrier to occur between the two which does not allow water to get to the inner layer of fur. The otter does not have any blubber, but because their fur is so dense (approaching one million hairs per square inch) the otters maintain their body temperature.
Northern species of dogs, that are generally thought of as sled dogs, also have an under layer of fur that protects them from the extreme northern cold. These dogs have been known to withstand wind chills of up to -100 degrees Fahrenheit. Normally the dog will sleep under the snow when outside. This gives it an extra protective layer from the cold other than the two that it already employs.
Without these cold fighting techniques, animals that live in the world’s coldest regions would have to move into more temperate zones. But by adapting, they can enjoy the serenity of their chosen environs.