With its chick fully fed, an adult emperor penguin heads back to sea for more fish and krill.
Adult penguins go out to sea for weeks on end, eating fish and krill which they later regurgitate to feed chicks. If an adult is killed and does not return to feed its young, or is away too long, the chick will die. This is the fate of up to 70 percent of emperor penguin offspring.
Emperor penguins’ body shape and poor climbing ability make it difficult for the birds to haul themselves ashore, especially onto icy or rocky coasts. It is also a moment when they are especially vulnerable to attacks by predators, such as the leopard seal.
But the flightless emperor penguin is capable of becoming airborne, by swimming at up to three times its normal speed, and launching itself from the water to clear the edge of a shoreline. Recent research shows that the penguins do this by releasing air from their feathers, in the form of tiny bubbles. The bubbles act as a lubricant, cutting drag, and enabling the birds to achieve bursts of speeds that would otherwise be impossible.
Le corps du manchot empereur et ses piètres capacités de grimpeur ne lui permettent pas de se hisser facilement hors de l’eau, surtout sur des côtes glacées ou rocheuses. C’est aussi le moment où il est le plus vulnérable aux attaques de prédateurs. Mais le manchot empereur, qui ne vole pas, arrive à se propulser hors de l’eau sur le littoral en triplant sa vitesse de natation.
Le manchot libère pour cela de l’air de ses plumes sous la forme de minuscules bulles qui agissent comme un lubrifiant, diminuant ainsi la résistance et permettant à l’oiseau de réaliser des pointes de vitesse autrement impossible à atteindre.
Ross Sea, Antarctica
Shutter speed: 1/2000 sec
Focal Length: 280 mm
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
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As a young boy, Paul Nicklen, a Canadian-born polar specialist and marine biologist, moved to Baffin Island and spent his childhood among the Inuit people. From them he learned the love of nature, the understanding of icy ecosystems, and the survival skills that have helped him to become one of the most successful wildlife and nature photojournalists.