How do emperor penguins launch themselves out of the sea at twice their normal swimming speeds? A mix of biology and physics sends this flightless bird flying… at least briefly: Penguins trap microbubbles within their dense plumage while swimming at the water’s surface. After diving deeper into the water, they release these microbubbles while speedily swimming upwards. This combination creates a cloak of lubricating air that reduces frictional drag, allowing them to torpedo back out onto the ice.

This clip from the BBC’s The Wonder of Animals explains. We also learn how their blubber helps insulate emperor penguins during the long Antarctic winter, and how they can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes while they hunt for food underwater.

Related reading at National Geographic: Escape Velocity. Plus, these related penguin videos: Emperor Penguins Speed Launch Out of the Water and penguins can’t fly, but they can jump.

Bonus: Emperor Penguins keep warm in an ever-shifting huddle.

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