Penguin smashes the world record for the longest dive after spending more than half an hour underwater in Antarctica
- Scientists in Antarctica used satellite tracking data to record the dive
- The longest ever seen, the penguin spent a total of 32.2 mintes under water
- It broke the previous record by more than five whole minutes
- The Emperor penguin was one of 20 birds tagged for a previous study
A penguin has been recorded diving for 32.2 minutes – smashing the previous record by a full five minutes.
The Emperor penguin, living in Antarctica, was one of 20 tagged by scientists in 2013.
This species of bird is the tallest and heaviest penguin species and spends the time underwater looking for food.
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A penguin has been recorded diving for 32.2 minutes – smashing the previous record by a full five minutes. The Emperor penguin, living in Antarctica, was one of 20 tagged by scientists in 2013 (stock image)
The penguin was recorded carrying out the dive by Dr Kim Goetz from the New Zealand’s National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research and colleagues.
Most of the fitted trackers stayed in place for more than six months, and more than 96,000 dives were recorded between March and the end of 2013.
Before the team’s findings the longest recorded emperor penguin dive was 27.6 minutes.
The record breaking dive was not a one-off however, as all 11 penguins performed dives exceeding the previous record time.
Explaining why the penguins might be diving for so long, the researchers said the birds might be searching for breathing holes as they dive under tight pack ice – but not finding any.
Before the team’s findings the longest recorded emperor penguin dive was 27.6 minutes. The record breaking dive was not a one-off. In all 11 penguins performed dives exceeding the previous record time (stock image)
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE LIFE CYCLE OF EMPEROR PENGUINS?
The Emperor penguin is the largest species of penguin, reaching heights of around four feet (1.2 meters) tall, and weighing between 49 pounds (22 kilograms) and 99 pounds (44 kilograms).
They are recognisable due to their distinctive black back and head, white breast and yellow patches on their necks.
The flightless birds inhabit the Antarctic, huddling together to keep warm in the icy climate, where temperatures reach as low as -90C.
Emperor penguins breed and raise their young almost exclusively on sea ice, with the females laying eggs before heading off to hunt for food, leaving the males to incubate the egg.
If there’s too little sea ice, it reduces the availability of breeding sites and prey for emperor penguins, but too much ice means longer hunting trips for adults, which means they can’t feed their chicks as frequently
After the chick is born, parents take turns foraging at sea and caring for the newborn within the colony.
The birds’ diet consists primarily of fish, but they will also eat crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid. To facilitate hunting the penguins can remain underwater for up to 18 minutes, diving to a depth of 1,755 ft.
The relationship between Emperor penguins and sea ice is fragile.
If there’s too little sea ice, it reduces the availability of breeding sites and prey, but too much ice means longer hunting trips for adults, which means they can’t feed their chicks as frequently.
The researchers say: ‘Their duration could be due to the difficulty of finding breathing holes in dynamic pack ice during low light conditions.’
‘Extreme environmental conditions are a natural phenomenon and result in birds losing their breathing holes from time to time.’
Exactly how the Emperor penguin is able to dive for so long is a mystery as its large body would suggest that eight minutes is the maximum time it would be comfortable under the water.
The average penguin weighed around five stone.
Dr Goetz told the Guardian: ‘This study showed that animals go far further than we thought – this has a number of different implications for their survival … understanding their entire life cycle, especially when birds are not restrained by chick-rearing duties, is critical to predicting how emperor penguins might respond to environmental changes.’
The findings have been published in the Journal of Marine Ecology Progress Series.
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