Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#92 Emperor Penguins

One of the most amazing documentaries I have ever watched is called “March of the Penguins.” I saw it five or six years ago with my family and to this day whenever I think about that movie and Emperor Penguins, the word that comes to mind is “unbelievable”. The movie is narrated by Morgan Freeman and is kind of slow moving, but you just cannot stop watching it. I checked Amazon and you can download it for $3.99. I highly recommend you put it at or near the top of your list of movies to see next.

Emperor Penguins are the largest of all penguins standing an average of around four feet tall and weighing around 50 to 100 pounds. They live in Antarctica and when winter starts coming, all of the other penguins start heading north for warmer waters. The Emperor Penguins do the opposite. They march right into the teeth of the worst of winter. Then they breed, incubate the egg through the coldest winter, and even hatch it before spring comes. They are the only Antarctic bird that breeds in the winter. [2]

“They breed during the depths of the Antarctic winter and in some of the most desolate, coldest, windiest and downright grim places on the planet during the season of 24 hour darkness.” [3]

How can evolution explain such behavior? It takes many special adaptations for them to survive which would never be necessary if they just went north to warmer water. They are certainly good survivors, but this is not the easiest way to survive and in fact only about 19% of their chicks do survive. [1]

This article is about the amazing abilities they have in order to survive in the coldest place on earth. Surely you will be able to see that they could never develop these abilities slowly and gradually over many generations in minus 40 degrees F.  They would all die in the very first generation without having all these abilities present in the beginning and endowed by their designer.

Emperor Penguins breed in the winter in Antarctica where the temperatures average minus 4 degrees F during the day and reaching minus 40 or 50 degrees F at night. [1] (Another source says minus 80 degrees F. [2]) The wind can blow up to 89 miles per hour or 120 miles per hour [1] depending on your source. Think of the “wind chill factor” in that wind. The females will lay one egg, but they cannot let it touch the ice or be exposed to the outside air temperature. In two minutes it would be dead. They lay the egg on top of their feet and keep it protected by a special fold of skin and feathers called a “brood pouch”.

Soon after that, the females very carefully pass the egg to their mate trying not to let it touch the ice. If it does, it is lost. The male keeps the egg on top of his feet for the next three of four months and protects it with his special “brood pouch”. The male does not eat during this whole time.

The female walks for the 30 to 75 miles to get to the ocean. She eats a lot of food and stores up as much as she can to take back to regurgitate for her baby chick. The egg will hatch in about 63 or 64 days of sitting on the male’s feet. Hatching can take two or three days because the shell of the egg is unusually thick.

She walks all the way back to her mate. This trip takes an average of 115 days round trip. [c] When she gets back to the flock, there are hundreds and hundreds of males. How does she find her mate?

“As the species has no fixed nest sites that individuals can use to locate their own partner or chick, Emperor Penguins must rely on vocal calls alone for identification. They use a complex set of calls that are critical to individual recognition between parents, offspring, and mates, displaying the widest variation in individual calls of all penguins. Vocalizing Emperor Penguins use two frequency bands simultaneously. Chicks use a frequency-modulated whistle to beg for food and to contact parents.” [1]

The chicks are carefully passed from the male to the female. Then the males, now weighing about 26 pounds less than when their mate left, take off walking the many miles to the sea to get something to eat.

To think that Emperor Penguins evolved is preposterous. They could not have evolved the ability to survive in these harsh winters someplace else and then moved there. What individual or group would go into the cold in the first place if walking the other way would be warmer and safer? How could the female and male learn to cooperate like they do? If an egg touches the ice, the embryo dies, first time and every time. No way it could evolve over generations. The male and female both have special “brood pouches” to protect the egg and chick. Where did those come from? How did they develop the special vocalization abilities they have to locate their mates among hundreds or thousands of others?

I can't even cover all of the unbelievable things that they are able to do. They have special feathers and a special layer of fat (up to 3cm) to protect them from the cold. They could not survive without it. It would not “evolve” unnecessarily in a warmer climate and it could not evolve slowly in frigid temperatures because the penguins would die before breeding. It would not need to evolve in the border between cold and warmer climates because the penguin could just walk to a warmer area. All other penguins breed in the spring when warm weather is coming. How could Emperor Penguins “evolve” to breed at the beginning of winter, totally different timing? The answer is that they didn’t, evolution is not a plausible explanation.

“Its stiff feathers are short, lanceolate (spear-shaped), and densely packed over the entire skin surface. With around 100 feathers covering one square inch (15 feathers per cm2), it has the highest feather density of any bird species. An extra layer of insulation is formed by separate shafts of downy filaments between feathers and skin. Muscles allow the feathers to be held erect on land, reducing heat loss by trapping a layer of air next to the skin. Conversely, the plumage is flattened in water, thus waterproofing the skin and the downy under layer.” [1]

Or check this out.

“"The Emperor Penguin is able to thermoregulate (maintain its core body temperature) without altering its metabolism, over a wide range of temperatures. Known as the thermoneutral range, this extends from -10 to 20 °C (14 to 68 °F). Below this temperature range, its metabolic rate increases significantly, although an individual can maintain its core temperature from 38.0 °C (100.4 °F) down to -47 °C (-53 °F). Movement by swimming, walking, and shivering are three mechanisms for increasing metabolism; a fourth process involves an increase in the breakdown of fats by enzymes, which is induced by the hormone glucagon." [1]

And check this out.

“A penguin's normal resting heart-beat is about 60-70 beats per minute (bpm), this goes up to 180-200 bpm before a dive as they load up with oxygen, then as they hit the water, the rate drops to 100 bpm immediately slowing to only 20 bpm during most of the dive so they use the stored oxygen in blood and muscles to the maximum effect. On returning to the surface again, the heart rate goes back to 200 bpm probably to pay back the "oxygen debt" they have incurred during the dive.” [3]

“The American physiologist Gerry Kooyman revolutionized the study of penguin foraging behaviour in 1971 when he published his results from attaching automatic dive-recording devices to Emperor Penguins. He found that the species reaches depths of 265m (869 ft), with dive periods of up to 18 minutes. Later research revealed a small female had dived to a depth of 535 m (1,755 ft) near McMurdo Sound.” [1]

“In addition to the cold, the emperor penguin encounters another stressful condition on deep dives—markedly increased pressure of up to 40 times that of the surface, which in most other terrestrial organisms would cause barotrauma. The bones of the penguin are solid rather than air-filled, which eliminates the risk of mechanical barotrauma.” [1]

How could they evolve such bones? Here’s another fact extremely hard to explain by evolution.

"Eventually, the female returns across the sea ice. This usually coincides with the hatching of the chick. Sometimes the chick will hatch before the female returns. If this happens, it will be fed with a secretion of protein and fat produced by the male from its esophagus, a sort of penguin 'milk'".[3]

Milk produced by the male of the species!!! All right, here’s one last one. Just exactly how could the following coordinated action of the group evolve over many generations? They would all have died before they were successful at it.

“As a defense against the cold, a colony of emperor penguins forms a compact huddle (also known as the turtle formation) ranging in size from ten to several hundred birds, with each bird leaning forward on a neighbor. As the wind chill is the least severe in the center of the colony, all the juveniles are usually huddled there. Those on the outside upwind tend to shuffle slowly around the edge of the formation and add themselves to its leeward edge, producing a slow churning action, and giving each bird a turn on the inside and on the outside.” [1]

"They survive by huddling together for warmth, very unusual behavior for adults of other penguin species which are usually aggressively territorial. They also take turns to occupy the coldest most exposed outside positions. Without this huddling behavior, they would be unable to endure the combined conditions of fasting, bitter cold, and hurricane force winds and would not be able to live and breed in the way they do. Even though they are close together during these huddles, they have been recently shown to be not quite touching. If they touched and squashed the puffed out feather down it would reduce the insulating value and make them colder, so they really fine-tune the process." [3]

Again I suggest you watch “March of the Penguins” DVD to get a real impactful understanding of the life of the Emperor Penguins.

Fact after fact after fact about Emperor Penguins defies any slow and gradual mutation/natural selection scenario. Evolution of an Emperor Penguin is impossible.

You’ll see. There has to be God.


[1], “Emperor penguin”, 

[3] “Emperor Penguins Facts”

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