Story: Penguins

From wings to flippers

From wings to flippers

Penguins have evolved from birds that used to fly. At some stage the penguin ancestors became increasingly adept at swimming and lost the ability to fly. In the trade-off, their short powerful wings make excellent flippers for ‘flying’ underwater, being less fragile and creating less drag than the long wings of many other seabirds. Another advantage of giving up flight is that they can put on weight. The ability to store food reserves as fat is an advantage for birds that have to travel far to obtain food, and larger penguins can dive deeper and for longer. The image shows Snares crested penguins.

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Photograph by Lloyd Spencer Davis

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How to cite this page:

Lloyd Spencer Davis, 'Penguins - New Zealand’s penguins', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 October 2021)

Story by Lloyd Spencer Davis, published 12 Jun 2006, reviewed & revised 11 Jul 2016