Several penguins at SeaWorld are acting as test swimmers for a dive study proposed by a San Diego penguin expert.
Dr. Paul Ponganis, a penguin expert at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, has been attaching cameras to emperor penguins living at SeaWorld’s Penguin Encounter.
The study Ponganis is proposing would strap similar cameras to the ones SeaWorld penguins have now to wild emperor penguins in Antarctica.
The proposal is awaiting a grant from the National Science Foundation. If approved, Ponganis would attach backpack cameras to emperor penguins in the wild and collect data from that footage.
To prepare for the experiment in the wild, he is attaching similar cameras to emperor penguins at SeaWorld and examining how he swims with the cameras and making sure the footage captured is useful. The footage captured so far, SeaWorld said, has been successful and Ponganis plans to include the footage in his grant proposal.
The emperor penguins Ponganis wants to study are the largest of the 18 penguin species. They weigh up to 90 pounds and measure up to nearly 4 feet tall. They can dive for 10 minutes and stay under water for almost 30 minutes, longer than any other bird.
In frigid water, they can dive up to 1,500 feet deep in frigid artic waters. SeaWorld has the only emperor breeding colony in the western hemisphere.