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If asked to imagine a penguin, most people would conjure an image of a cute, waddling creature. While the classic penguin waddle is certainly humorous, the fact that this gait is beneficial to penguins would shock most. This bumbling gait allows penguins to increase velocity while walking without expending excessive energy, according to Today.com.
According to The Guardian, a group of researchers trained eight king penguins from the coast of Antarctica to walk on treadmills. The researchers selected king penguins for the study because these animals possess an bipedal upright walk. As the king penguins walked on the treadmills, the researchers monitored how body movements along three different axes of the creatures changed as speed increased. Some variables the researchers studied include waddling amplitude and stride frequency.
As you can imagine, the researchers encountered difficulty training the subjects to walk on the treadmills. Once the penguins became accustomed to using the equipment, the penguins could walk at different speeds. The maximum velocity of the king penguins was 1.7 mph, according to IFLScience.
Based on the results, the researchers concluded there was a strong correlation between walking speed and walking amplitude. This suggests that changes to the side-to-side motion depth allow the subjects to change speed. Primarily, waddling helps the penguins walk faster to pursue prey or escape predators.
Penguins undergo fishing trips that require a lot of walking. During fishing trips, penguins sometimes have to waddle over 155 miles over several days before they reach their destination. Waddling surprisingly allows king penguins to arrive at these often remote destinations in less time.