Only a few animals can survive the subzero temperatures of Antarctica. One of those animals is the penguins, who have an ingenious way of keeping themselves warm while ensuring that no one dies as they travel across the frozen terrain and bombarded with gusty winds. What do they do? They huddle. This phenomenon is already amazing enough on its own, but once we look deeper into this, it becomes even more amazing.
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“A penguin huddle looks like organized chaos,” said François Blanchette, a mathematician at the University of California, Merced. “Every penguin acts individually, but the end result is an equitable heat distribution for the whole community.”
It turns out that penguins execute their huddles with a high degree of mathematical efficiency, as Blanchette and his team discovered. More recently, Daniel Zitterbart, a physicist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, helped develop and install high-resolution cameras to observe undisturbed huddling behavior. Zitterbart’s team recently discovered which conditions cause penguins to huddle, and they are investigating the possibility that the penguins’ mathematical behavior may reveal secrets about colony health over time.
Learn more about this interesting mathematical phenomenon over at Quanta Magazine.
(Image Credit: Nature on PBS/ YouTube)