The fourth characteristic of life describes how organisms grow and respond to their surroundings. This is called adaptation. It is crucial that all living things can cope with the environment around them to ensure that they can survive and reproduce. Penguins have many characteristics that are unique to them, such as their feathers which provide insulation to keep them warm in the harsh winter and allow them to glide through water. Unlike other birds, penguins cannot fly and their wings are used mainly as fins to swim through the water swiftly. The climate in Antartica is particularly harsh, so penguins have an extra layer of fat called blubber to keep them warm. The penguin has coped with its surroundings to ensure its survival for many years to come.
One researcher, Caroline Goldman who was working with the Nature Conservancy's Belize Country Program visited an island of the Antarctic to document her experience and findings on Penguins. She was on an expedition cruise in South Georgia Island where she studied the different species of penguins living there. One of her main focal points of this expedition was to research why the penguin population was decreasing. Throughout her expedition she vividly describes the penguins and talks about her opinion on why the Antarctic is seeing a sudden shift in the number of penguins.
The second characteristic of life is Reproduction. It states that any living organism must be able to reproduce in order for their species to be able to thrive and survive in their environment. Organisms can either produce sexually or asexually to create offspring. Penguins are unique from any other animal when it come to reproduction. The mother will travel inland to lay her egg because it is safe from predators there, and once she lays her egg she pushes it towards her mate's feet without it touching the ice. If the egg touches the ice, the chick inside will freeze because of the harsh weather conditions. The mother leaves the father to go find food while he keeps the egg warm and safe from danger.
Recently the zoologists at the St. Louis Zoo have been working on studying penguin's hearts and embryos to save their lives. Their research is vital to ensure that penguins remain on the planet with an increasing population. The St. Louis zoo has started researching about penguin hearts, because the most common cause of death is from heart issues. So far the zoo has samples of 20 penguin hearts from the past two decades. As of now the research lab in the St. Louis Zoo is still working on discovering new breakthroughs, but their fieldwork has helped many scientists better understand and save the lives of penguins.
The fifth characteristic of life is to use energy. This states that all living things must use energy (which is also called ATP) to function. All organisms require energy because it helps their bodies maintain homeostasis to stay alive. Penguins and other animals get their energy from sources such as plants and animals they have eaten, and the sun. Penguins get most of their energy from fish because it is their main source of food. The penguin's body has adapted to the environment around it to allow it to dive into the frigid arctic ocean and catch fish. Penguin's spend a large amount of their energy on migration, and each year the Patagonian Penguins travel hundreds of miles north of their nest during incubation.
The sixth characteristic of life is growth and development. This characteristic states that all living organisms grow and increase in size while developing and changing over the course of their life. While developing all animals increase their mental capacity and get larger from their time of birth. Penguin babies, called chicks begin life relying on their parents. Once the egg is hatched it takes the penguin about 50 days to each its adult stage. When penguins first hatch they are born without feathers, but they will soon grow in. As they continue to grow their feathers become waterproof and they can learn how to fish with their parents. Throughout development chicks learn how to survive in the frigid Antarctic winters from their parents and surroundings.
Right now baby penguins are growing in the Byculla Zoo. This zoo is located in Mumbai which does not have any penguins living near it in the wild, so some the guests have never heard of these birds before. It is a very popular attraction there, and almost 300,000 people have visited the zoo since the penguins were added to the exhibits. Although this may sound like all fun and games scientists and researchers in Mumbai are actually studying these penguins to see how their minds develop throughout the course of their lifetime. While they may be a great addition to the zoo these penguins are very vital to discovering new information about their species.