Explained: Why Penguins Can't Fly
Theory: They're just too good at swimming
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted May 21, 2013 8:33 AM CDT
Researchers think penguins can't fly because they're such good swimmers.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Wouldn't the March of the Penguins have been a whole lot easier as Flight of the Penguins? Perhaps—but if penguins were able to fly, they might have to give up their incredible swimming ability, scientists say: It's a tradeoff. A team looked at the guillemot, a relative of the penguin that can both swim and fly, in order to figure out why penguins can't achieve liftoff. For guillemots, the researchers found, "the energy costs (of flying) are very, very high."

Diving, however, is fairly easy for the birds, the BBC notes. That seems to support the "biomechanical hypothesis" as to why penguins can't fly. The theory suggests that flying and diving are so different that "you cannot build a wing that is good at doing both," says a professor. For evolving penguins, "as the wings became more and more efficient for them to dive, they became less and less efficient for them to fly," he notes. "At some point it became so 'expensive' for them to fly that it was better to give up flying altogether and make the wings into small flippers."

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Showing 3 of 58 comments
vlad
May 22, 2013 3:01 PM CDT
or gobbledygook translated to plain english ! penguins cant fly because of body mass to wing area ratios , aka bodys to big ,wings to small ! lol bet the wasted a shitload of cash on this !
clmsman
May 22, 2013 2:44 PM CDT
I wonder how big of government grant went into this piece of useless information. Penguins fly underwater, don't you love some acedemics that went to school on probably public money for ten years to get a doctoriate and this is what they do with it with more public money. Anything wrong with this system!
JackNelsonSteward
May 21, 2013 7:58 PM CDT
Can't fly ... ??!! Seriously? You ever watch'em in the water?!! Besides ... look at the environment they live in. What the hell's the advantage to being able to fly in that?