Emperor penguins are seen in Dumont d'Urville, Antarctica April 10, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
A new study by the University of California revealed that even when penguins act selfishly to stay warm during a huddle, each member of the penguin group spends equal amounts of time exposed to wind.
In a statement, study researcher Francois Blanchette, a mathematician at the University of California, Merced, explained, "Even if penguins are only selfish, only trying to find the best spot for themselves and not thinking about their community, there is still equality in the amount of time that each penguin spends exposed to the wind."
According to CBS News, Blanchette became interested in penguin huddles after watching the National Geographic documentary 'The March of the Penguins.' The mathematician, who normally studies fluid dynamics, joined forces with his colleagues to make a mathematical model to replicate penguin huddles.
The group of researchers first calculated which penguin on the edge of the huddle would be the chilliest and then had that penguin move towards the middle of the huddle in a constant rotation, CBS News reported. To perfect their models, the researchers then added elements of uncertainty, including huddle size changes and wind currents.
"A penguin huddle is a self-sufficient system in which the animals rely on each other for shelter," Blanchette said. "And I think that is what makes it fair."
The study not only revealed new information on penguins but similar models could be used to figure out how other groups of organisms function, National Geographic reported. Blanchette added that he also hopes the study will get people more interested in his field of mathematics.
"Nearly everybody seems to love penguins and not enough people love math," he said. "If we use math to study penguins we could potentially teach more people to love math too!"
Blanchette and his research group published their study in the journal PLOS ONE on November 16 and presented their findings at the American Physical Society's fluid dynamic conference in San Diego this week.