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2012-03-23
Longest recorded dive of a bird?


The longest recorded dive for any bird is by an Emperor Penguin - Aptenodytes forsteri – submerged for 18 minutes.

Adaptations for long dives

While diving, theEmperor Penguin's oxygen use is markedly reduced, as its heart rate is reduced to as low as 15-20 beats per minute and non-essential organs are shut down, thus facilitating longer dives. Its hemoglobin and myoglobin are able to bind and transport oxygen at low blood concentrations; this allows the bird to function with very low oxygen levels that would otherwise result in loss of consciousness.

The Emperor Penguin - Aptenodytes forsteri - is the tallest and heaviest penguin and is endemic to Antarctica. They breed in the coldest environment of any bird species. It has several unique adaptations for the harsh cold conditions, deep dive pressure and low oxygen.

Description

The Emperor has a streamlined body and males and females are similar in size and colouration. The adult has deep black dorsal feathers, covering the head, chin, throat, back, dorsal part of the flippers, and tail. The black plumage is sharply delineated from the light-coloured plumage elsewhere. The underparts of the wings and belly are white, becoming pale yellow in the upper breast, while the ear patches are bright yellow. The upper mandible is black, and the lower mandible can be pink, orange or lilac. In juveniles, the auricular patches, chin and throat are white, while its bill is black. The Emperor Penguin chick is typically covered with silver-grey down and has a black head and white mask.

Call

They use a complex set of calls that are critical to individual recognition between parents, offspring, and mates. These penguins have the widest variation in individual calls of all penguins.

Food

Diet consists mainly of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods. In hunting, the species can remain submerged up to 18 minutes, diving to a depth of 535 m

Breeding

The Emperor Penguin is able to breed at around three years of age. The yearly reproductive cycle begins at the start of the Antarctic winter, in March and April, when all mature Emperor Penguins travel to colonial nesting areas. They start courtship in March or April, when the temperature can be as low as −40 °C. The female lays a single greenish-white egg, which she very carefully transfers to the male, before immediately returning to the sea for two months to feed. The male incubates the egg in his brood pouch, balancing it on the tops of his feet, for 64 consecutive days until hatching. Hatching may take as long as two or three days, as the shell of the egg is thick. By the time the egg hatches, the male will have fasted for around 115 days since arriving at the colony. To survive the cold and winds of up to 200 km/h (120 mph), the males huddle together, taking turns in the middle of the huddle. In the four months of travel, courtship, and incubation, the male may lose as much as 20 kg. The female penguin returns and takes over caring for the chick, feeding it by regurgitating the food that she has stored in her stomach. The male then leaves to take his turn at sea, spending around 24 days there before returning. Between 45 to 50 days after hatching, the chicks form a creche, huddling together for warmth and protection. During this time, both parents forage at sea and return periodically to feed their chicks.

 Conservation Status – Least concern

The Emperor Penguin is listed as a species of "least concern" by the IUCN. It is currently under consideration for inclusion under the US Endangered Species Act. The primary reasons for this are declining food availability due to the effects of climate change and industrial fisheries on the crustacean and fish populations.

Birdwatching

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