After seeing a program on PBS’s Nature series on how penguins stay warm, Marlene’s greeting card has given new meaning to the word “huddle”. The only other place I hear this word regularly is when I watch football. Emperor penguins are like no other penguins, even though there are others of different shapes and sizes who don’t even live in Antarctica but in other
places like Madagascar and the Galapagos Islands. Did you know that larger penguin species like the Emperor are found in colder climates while smaller ones are found in warmer climates? One has to wonder, when temperatures reach 40 below zero, isn’t there a point where even Emperor penguins get cold? The answer is yes and the way they handle it is even more phenomenal. Huddling for them is a matter of life and death. Collective movements rather than individual ones are a necessity. The penguins on the outside row are reshuffled to the center without a single one getting crushed! The secret is they move very slowly without changing their position and do not use force in or out of the huddle.
Marlene Schwartz’s watercolor painting is so accurately detailed that it could easily be a photograph. Penguins are flightless and she shows their distinct tuxedo-like appearance which helps keep them safe in the water where they catch their food. Their young are raised, however, on land. Each penguin has a distinguishing call allowing them to find their mates and their chicks in large groups. The female Emperor lays one egg during spring and summer but it is the male who covers it with his brood pouch with which he keeps the egg warm for 65 days through icy cold temperatures. After about 2 months, the chicks are hatched and the mother returns from her fishing session at sea with food for the newly hatched chicks. In her painting, Marlene shows you the large penguin with the newly hatched chick in the brood pouch. The males now leave for their session at sea while the female takes over caring for them.Both male and female Emperor penguins take very good care of their young and procure anything they need. This comes across to us immediately in Marlene’s watercolor. We can learn a lot from these social aquatic birds. Knowing that their lifespan is about 20 years it is pretty safe to say that these creatures will be around for a long time.
Thank you, Marlene, for your amazing depiction!
See you on Tuesday! Have a great weekend!