Photo Shows ‘Thickness of a Penguin’s Coat of Feathers’?

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Claim:

A photograph authentically shows the “thickness of a penguin’s coat of feathers.”

Photograph allegedly depicting the “thickness of a penguin’s coat of feathers” has been circulating online at least since 2019.

(Reddit u/Ehansaja)

The photograph spread on numerous social media platforms, such as Pinterest, Facebook, 9GAG, and Reddit

We found the image was an authentic photo illustrating the density of an emperor penguin’s feathers, so have rated this claim as “True.”

The photograph was originally posted on X in July 2018, by the official X account of The Natural History Museum’s collection of birds’ eggs & nests. “Ever wondered how Emperor Penguins survive temperatures of -60 degrees centigrade? Their feathers are densely packed as these photos show but as researcher Cassondra L. Williams and colleagues discovered there is more to the story than meets the eye!” the post informed.

Moreover, the post redirected to a research article with the title “Hidden keys to survival: the type, density, pattern and functional role of emperor penguin body feathers.”

One X user asked under the post, “Where was this specimen collected? […] Also, the photos are going viral again & the internet is worried abt what happened to the penguin: would this’ve been collected after a natural death?” The Natural History Museum account responded that “It was found during research on Emperors on the Dion Islands during surveys in 1949. When discovered there were c. 150 breeding pairs but by 2009 aerial photos showed no sign of the colony and this was linked to a rise in air temperatures and declines in sea ice duration.”

(X user @NHM_Oology)

It’s not the first time we’ve investigated a penguin-related claim. For instance, June 2024, we investigated whether penguins trade sex acts for pebbles to use in building their nests. In June 2018, we debunked a video allegedly showing a group of penguins living on an island of plastic.

Sources

Evon, Dan. “Are These Penguins Living on an Island of Plastic?” Snopes, 11 June 2018, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/are-penguins-living-island-plastic/.

Rascouët-Paz, Anna. “Penguins Trade Sex for Pebbles?” Snopes, 5 June 2024, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/penguins-trade-sex-pebbles/.

Williams, Cassondra L., et al. “Hidden Keys to Survival: The Type, Density, Pattern and Functional Role of Emperor Penguin Body Feathers.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 282, no. 1817, Oct. 2015, p. 20152033. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2015.2033.

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