Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Emperor Penguins are AWESOME.

I clearly do not monitor ASOC's Flickr account closely enough, or I would have noticed that several of our emperor penguin pictures are being used in an AwesomeOff. Or should that be AWESOMEOFF? Anyway, should you decide to check out this contest, I think you will agree that male emperor penguins are way more awesome than the Notorious B.I.G. doll, or the Peekaru, which is a garment that allows your parasitic twin to finally get some air.

Male emperor penguins are of course famous for their dedicated egg tending. The female penguin lays the egg, and then, exhausted from that process, treks back out to the ocean to feed. The male, meanwhile, remains several miles inland (no predators there), incubating the egg, which sits on top of his feet under his warm overhanging belly blubber. He slowly burns off his fat stores whilst keeping this egg warm and away from the ice, in the middle of some very unpleasant weather. He even feeds the chick with some stored-up food when it hatches, despite being pretty close to starvation himself. Only when his mate returns to take over caring for the chick will he be able to return to the ocean and get a decent meal. It gets so cold that the male penguins huddle together to form a giant rotating mass so as to share the burden of being fully exposed to the wind (penguins move in and out of the warm center). They somehow manage coordinate this without letting the eggs roll off their feet. It's no fun, even if the result is an adorable fluffy penguin chick.

Having defeated three opponents in this month's AwesomeOff, male emperor penguins are waiting for a new contest. When they get one, make sure to vote for them. I don't even care who their opponent is - of the slate of June combatants, I count exactly zero others who can survive in the Antarctic without protective gear or food, balance an egg on their feet for weeks at a time, and look good doing it.

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