This gallery explains the process through which penguins adapted to Antarctic conditions.
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Our Ocean Planet Science Geography ages 7-11 unit is a KS2 teacher resource. Students discover marine topics across both the UK and globally, developing ocean literacy.
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How are penguins like other birds? They have: 1) beaks; 2) feathers; 3) four limbs. They also 4) lay eggs and are warm-blooded.
Not quite is the answer to the question.
Penguins are different from other birds because they have:
1) a very thick layer of downy feathers to keep them warm;
2) wings shaped like flippers;
3) webbed feet.
Once upon a time, the birds that became penguins, looked like birds of flight. So what happened?
Well, the environment that the birds lived in changed, and this caused them to evolve into penguins as they adapted to their habitat.
Let’s look at how one specific feature that evolved: the very thick downy layer of feathers.
To do this we need to go back millions of years.
Here we can see that the birds that evolved into penguins were all slightly different.
We say they showed variation. Some had thin downy layers and some had thick downy layers.
About 15 million years ago, we think the environment where the birds lived changed. The climate got much colder.
This meant that the birds with the thicker downy layer had an adaptation which made them better suited to the environment.
So they were much more likely to survive.
We call babies ‘offspring’.
The offspring also have thick downy feathers because they inherit features from their parents.
Over a really long time, the environment got colder and colder.
Each time, the birds with the thicker downy layer survive and reproduce.
Eventually, they are very different from other birds.
We say they have evolved.
We call these new birds penguins!
Evidence for evolution comes from fossils and by looking at DNA.
The evidence isn’t perfect, and there is lots missing.
But that’s exciting because it means there is still lots for scientists to find as they explore.