Why do penguins have wings if they can’t fly? How did penguins lose their ability to fly? Are they birds? Don’t they have any fear of predators? What are the causes of their inability to fly? Why don’t they want to use their wings? Is it their habit or evolutionary feature? Have they forgotten to fly?
Here in this article, we will discuss in detail about how penguins lost their ability to fly.
Related Post: Why can’t penguins fly?
Penguins have unique kinds of characteristics as compared to other creatures. We may assume that ability of flight should have made the lives of penguins a bit easier in the Antarctic cold environment and they don’t have any need to toboggan. There are apparently some advantages associated with penguins flying like heavy emperor penguins would be able to escape more easily from predators like leopard seals present at the edge of the sea. Secondly, the emperor penguins could be freed of stress of too much walking, during the migration phase.
What does the theory of biomechanics say about the loss of penguins’ flight?
The theory of biomechanics says that it is true that wings of the penguins were once adapted for flying. And penguins were able to fly in the past. But with the passage of time, their wings became more efficient and suitable for swimming and eventually penguins lost their ability to fly. And it was difficult for the penguins to get food by flying, so when they learnt to swim, they found it easier to find it from the water. This ability to swim in a proficient way led to enhanced opportunities for penguins to forage for food in the depths of water..so now we know that a modern emperor penguin can hold its breath for more than 20 minutes and quickly dive to 1,500 feet (450 meters) to feast. (See also Can penguins breathe underwater)
So, in short, we can call the penguins diving hunters. Basically when can say that penguins fly in the water as other birds fly in the air. Their wings are modified in a way that they feel more convenience in diving. Penguins have lost their ability to fly millions of years ago, so most of the causes of their flightless behavior are unknown. Sometimes, scientists assume that with the passage of time, the shape of their flippers changed and they became unable to fly. Moreover,they may have less fear of predators and they didn’t feel any need of flying because there was nothing to fly away from.
National Academy of sciences published a study in which co-author Robert Ricklefs told discovery news and said:
” Once penguins gave up flight, changes to wing structure and overall body size and shape probably followed rapidly because flying no longer placed constraints to body form,”
Similarly, professor of biology at the University of Missouri at St. Louis says:
” Note that penguins are much more at risk of predation in the water than they are on land, and so there has been strong selection to make their swimming and diving as efficient as possible,”
Scientists wonder why penguins lost the ability to fly although it was useful in many ways. It is a fact that emperor penguins have to walk more than 30 miles from their nesting sites to the seashore. This journey consists of several days and it could be reduced to a few hours if they would be able to fly. They have to walk a lot despite having heavy flippers. So scientists tried to study the prehistoric flying penguins and tried to find out the causes of loss of flight with the passage of time. At last, they concluded:
“The flying ancestors of penguins were probably not much different in general appearance than murres and their relatives, and probably behaved in much the same way,”
How did penguins lose their ability to fly?
Modern research shows that it was not the brain modifications that changed their behavior from flying to swimming but it’s the adaptation they acquired with the passage of time. So as a result, their brains changed. A new study tells us that brain modification is not the first thing in this situation.
There is also another opinion about this. Some scientists say that it is merely useless to say how penguins lost the ability to fly, rather they could never fly in the entire history. They are flightless birds from the day first.
James Proffitt, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin’s school of Geosciences, and leader of the research says..
“What this seems to indicate is that becoming larger, losing flight and becoming a wing-propelled diver does not necessarily change the [brain] anatomy quickly. The way the modern penguin brain looks doesn’t show up until millions and millions of years later”
One of the reasons for their better adaptation of swimming is that penguins find easy prey inside the water. They not only eat fish, but also squid and krill. So this is an evolutionary adaptation. (See also Why can’t penguins fly?)
It is estimated that flying penguins may be present somewhat 60 million years ago. This was the prehistoric era. But they encountered many problems like lack of enough food on the dry land, difficulty in flying due to heavy flippers, flying predators, windy weather conditions, etc. Their brains were also less developed and they couldn’t face a lack of food and water. So they tried to get their food from the water. That food was easily digestible as well as tasty. As a result, penguins started learning to fly inside the water. It means they began using their wings for this purpose. They acquired this characteristic in a very perfect manner as compared to other swimming birds. So as a result of evolution, they developed flippers only suitable for swimming or flying inside the water. So we can say that this is how did penguins lose their ability to fly?
According to modern research, there are 4 main reasons for the loss of the penguins’ ability to fly.
Wings of the penguins are well adapted for swimming and not suitable for flying. They can easily dive and can remain inside water for a long period of time without even breathing.
It was so energy consuming for the penguins to fly against the gravitational force of the earth.
Penguins easily get fish and other seafood which they wouldn’t be able to get so easily get. Food is always one of the major factors of bird’s adaptation.
Penguins are bulky in their sizes. They possess heavy weights and their bodies have large surface area.
So we can say that it is simple to.answer how penguins lost their ability to fly. Flying was not a favorable characteristic and nature always enhances the favorable feature and unfavorable features become extinct.
I hope you have enjoyed this article.