Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Dumbass Design™: The Emperor Penguin
Yes. Unafraid, your faithful servant steps into the minefield of mocking the adorable. "Oh no, Matty Boy!" my small but loyal band of readers exclaim. "Don't make fun of the little pengy peeps! Dey so cuuuuute."
Yes, cute they may be, but when viewing their life style in its totality, you have to wonder if some Emperor Penguin from the distant past peed in God's chowder, because they got dealt a pretty crummy hand.
The three rules of being alive are:
1. Get something to eat.
2. Don't get eaten.
3. Find somebody nice and... zoom zoom zoom in the boom boom with the room room. Or words to that effect.
Emperor Penguins do just fine on all three of these rules. We might think of Antarctica in the summertime as being Too Damned Cold, but lots of well insulated species of birds and sea mammals think it's pretty terrific. Six months of sunshine, lots of fish in the sea, life is good. But if there is a fourth rule of staying alive, it's this.
4. When the weather turns to crap, go someplace else.
When it gets dark in Antarctica, it stays dark for six months, and the crowded beaches get uncrowded in a hurry. Every other species heads north, except the Emperor, who heads south.
As we know, penguins don't walk, they waddle. And as the sun goes down and six months of night descends, they waddle sixty to one hundred miles inland, huddle together on a frozen plain and wait. Here, they give birth to their chicks.
Heck, you saw March of the Penguins. You know the story.
For all the hardships they endure, the really dumbass part of this design is the risk that the path back to the ocean and food will become impassable one season. Six months of the nastiest weather on the planet could easily forms snowbanks the penguins couldn't climb, or a crack in the ice could form a crevasse or cliff that would block their way. In a recent year, one of those huge state-sized pieces of ice that are falling off Antarctica on a regular basis added over fifty miles to their path back to the sea during the time when they have to get food for the chicks who are still stuck in No Food Anyplace Land.
And for this reason, the Emperor Penguin, adorable star of nature shows, gets to be the star of this segment of Dumbass Design™.