Emperor Penguin By: edah TUmuti

Emperor Penguins


The first group of the penguin species that had been differentiated from the general group of birds was about 71- 68 million years ago. Emperor penguins like all penguins are flightless birds. Emperor penguins commonly live in Antarctic areas for their entire lives. These areas are surrounded by sheets of ice and water. An average adult emperor penguin can weigh from a range of 40 to 90 lb, and averages to have a height of 45 inches which is about 3’9. Also penguins are able to swim up to a speed of about 8.9 mph but normally swim at a speed of 6.4 mph. And even though their bone structure causes them to wobble when they walk they can can actually walk at a maximum speed of 1.7 mph.

Classification of Emperor Penguins:

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Sphenisciformes
  • Family: Spheniscidae
  • Species: Aptenodytes Forsteri

Morphological & Molecular Evidence

The Emperor penguin is closely related to the Northern Fulmar and the Dalmatian Pelican.

The Northern Fulmar (top left), The Dalmatian Pelican (top right), and The Emperor Penguin (lower center)

Some Physical Similarities include:

  • All of these birds have wings that fold to the side when they swim.
  • The curve between the top of their vertebra and their head.
  • Their necks naturally point downwards by the way their necks, heads, and beaks are shaped.

Their Molecular Similarites:

These are small portions of DNA, the more matches the closer related the species are.

Morphological and Molecular evidence are really important when it comes to providing proof of evolution. Their evidence shows evidence of evolution because it brings up the concept of what their ancestors were and where did the organism originate from. The features shared between the emperor penguin, the northern fulmar, and the dalmatian pelican all point towards them having a common ancestor that had the same wing structure and same curve in the neck that all three of these organisms share. The molecular evidence provides information that points towards them being related in some way even though the organisms aren’t necessarily classified in the same category. The similar DNA sequences helps give evidence that they all got those similarly shared strands of DNA from one common ancestor.

Homologous Structures

Penguin, Elephant, and Humans have some similar basic features


  • Vertebrates
  • Feet and toe bones (tarsals and phalanges)Feet and toe bones (tarsals and phalanges)
  • Leg bones (tibia and fibula)
  • Rib cage


  • Vertebrates are differently shaped forming the body of each animal.
  • Feet and Toe Bones (Tarsals and Phalanges) are different because penguins walk and swim, elephants just walk, and humans can walk, swim, skate, cycle, kick, etc.
  • Leg Bones (Tibias and Fibulas) are different because penguins waddle when they walk, but also gives more strength and speed while swimming. Elephants only bends their leg bones during their walks in strides. And last of all humans bend their leg bones in several ways to help with their several functions (the human leg bones have the most mobility).

Homologous structures are shared basic bone structures that are shared between several animals, but have different functions than each other. The homologous structures between these animals legs, feet, and back (vertebrae) provide evidence that these animals likely came from a common ancestor. This also provides evidence that these animals probably changed and started using these basic structures differently because of them needing to use them for different reasons in different habitats and climates. Penguins live in arctic areas while elephants live in humid desert and rainforest areas, in which penguins have needed to adapt to swimming in arctic waters to get food while elephants use their structures for basic walking. Then there is the human that has more mobile legs that can be stretched and used in more ways than elephants and penguins, but is also used for swimming and walking. But can also be used for cycling and skating and jumping and kicking. All this differences come together when you see that they are all possible because of a similar homologous feature that has evolved and changed according to the species who is using it and according to their needs with the feature.

Vestigial Structures

One vestigial structure that emperor penguins have are their wings. Though they have wings emperor penguins are flightless birds.

Vestigial structures are bone structure or features that organisms have that they no longer need or use. This vestigial structure of the emperor penguin expresses evidence of the penguin’s evolution because it shows that the penguin is a bird that has learned to live without having to use its wings to fly and survive. The penguin survives without flying unlike its ancestors that used them for flight. The penguin’s wings are its vestigial structure because even though it has wings it doesn’t use them to fly because it is a flightless bird.

Transitional Fossils

Ancestors Chart (The species at the complete bottom is the penguin)
Gaviidae ( on the left) and Procellariiformes (on the right)

Differences Between Now and Then:

Overtime the Emperor Penguin has evolved and changed a lot when you compare it to its two recent ancestors the Gaviidae and Procellariiformes. One thing is that though the wings look similar, their structures are very different, you can see this in the way they swim. The ancestors swim over the water like ducks, but the penguin has the ability to swim deep under water now. Also the ancestors had wings that were structured to fly, but the penguin no longer has the ability to fly making it a flightless bird. Another key difference is that the new pigment that the penguin has that now looks like a cross of its two ancestors.

Transitional Fossils are fossilized remains of of any life that inhibits common features of a now living organism. (Since I couldn't find any clear fossils I used live images of the ancestors). Transitional fossils show evidence of evolution by providing images of structures and features of animals from the past that can be used to compare to animals that live in the present. The common molecular and morphological features can help find a relation between these animals and provide evidence that these animals evolved from each other to help the species survive over time. These can also provide evidence to help understand why the animals changed and what caused them to change and evolve.

Comparative Embryology

Emperor Penguin from Embryo to Adult

Comparative Embryology is the study of embryos where scientists compare and contrast the embryos of different species. Many animals that go through a similar embryological cycle, they have this in common because they derive from a similar ancestor. This is very common between vertebrae animals because they must have a common ancestor that has a vertebrae to derive from. This study also helps show evidence of evolution because it provides evidence that animals with similar features and a common ancestor and common features likely changed, evolved, and got their variations from their environment and necessities for survival.

Work Cited:

  • http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/emperor-penguin/#emperor-penguin-group-snow.jpg
  • https://seaworld.org/Animal-Info/Animal-Bytes/Birds/Emperor-Penguin
  • http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/wildlife/Emperor-penguins.php
  • http://www.penguins-world.com/penguin-evolution/
  • https://fossilpenguins.wordpress.com/tag/evolution/
  • http://penguinology.blogspot.com/2013_02_01_archive.html
  • http://www.nature.com/articles/srep31671
  • http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Penguin


Created with images by 1980supra - "ocean tree fantasy"

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