Coordinated Movements Prevent Jamming in an Emperor Penguin Huddle


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Daniel.Zitterbart [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

For Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), huddling is the key to survival during the Antarctic winter. Penguins in a huddle are packed so tightly that individual movements become impossible, reminiscent of a jamming transition in compacted colloids. It is crucial, however, that the huddle structure is continuously reorganized to give each penguin a chance to spend sufficient time inside the huddle, compared with time spent on the periphery. Here we show that Emperor penguins move collectively in a highly coordinated manner to ensure mobility while at the same time keeping the huddle packed. Every 30–60 seconds, all penguins make small steps that travel as a wave through the entire huddle. Over time, these small movements lead to large-scale reorganization of the huddle. Our data show that the dynamics of penguin huddling is governed by intermittency and approach to kinetic arrest in striking analogy with inert non-equilibrium systems, including soft glasses and colloids.



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ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Published
Eprint ID
30920
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0020260

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Zitterbart, D. P. , Wienecke, B. , Butler, J. P. and Fabry, B. (2011): Coordinated Movements Prevent Jamming in an Emperor Penguin Huddle , PLoS ONE, 6 (6), e20260 . doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020260


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