African penguins are an endangered species that live along the rocky coastal beaches of southern Africa. They must withstand both the heat of the land and the chill of the ocean. And one of the reasons they can do this? Their unique feet.
African penguins have webbed feet that help them regulate their body temperature. When an African penguin overheats, bare patches on his feet and glands dissipate heat. By releasing this excess heat from his body, an African penguin is able to withstand both the hot subtropical climate of Africa’s southern shores and ocean temperatures of 5-20 degrees (41-68 degrees Farenheit).
And while some might think penguin feet are meant for paddling, they actually serve as more of a rudder, allowing the animal to quickly adjust his direction underwater. African penguins are able to reach swimming speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. They are also very skilled navigators – African penguins can locate a favorite nesting site or even their place of birth after months out at sea.
On land an African penguin has a clumsy, rolling waddle, only reaching walking speeds of 2 miles per hour.
Just a few weeks ago, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species announced that the African penguin had been moved from its “Vulnerable” status to “Endangered.”
See more penguin photographs by visiting this gallery of penguin images.
Photo Credit: Jodi Kendall, images taken at the Turtle Back Zoo.