How penguins survive the world’s coldest temperatures —

A group of Isabelline Adélie penguins

A group of Isabelline Adélie penguins

They are the epitome of survival against the odds, enduring some of the most hostile weather conditions on the planet on a continent that is almost completely barren.

Last year, scientists gained a valuable insight into how penguins are able to cope with the extreme cold, high winds and months of darkness they experience in Antarctica.

Genetic analysis of the genomes of two species — emperor penguins, the largest of the family, and their smaller cousins Adélie penguins — has revealed some of their secrets to survival. 

Researchers found that the penguins have a vast number of genes responsible for creating the raw material needed for feathers – proteins known as beta-keratins.

They carry more genes for a particular type of beta keratin than any other bird and it is thought this is what allows them develop their thick plumage of short, stiff feathers that keep them warm.

The densely packed and barbed feathers also trap air to keep them buoyant and remain waterproof while they are swimming, allowing them to reach speeds of up to 22 mph in some species.

The scientists also discovered that penguins have a gene called DSG1, which in humans is known to be involved in a dermatological disease characterised by thick skin on the palms and feet. It believes these genes may help the penguins develop a uniquely thick skin compared to other birds. (Mail Online)

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