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Flightless Feathered Friends

New tales of penguin evolution, past and present

If a bird's success is measured by how well it flies, then penguins rank low. Their aerial excursions are limited to hopping from one rock to another or, at best, punctuating their high-speed swims with short, arcing leaps from the ocean's surface to take a quick breath of air. By other gauges, however, penguins are successful indeed. With their streamlined shape, waterproof plumage, and thick layers of insulating fat, penguins are tailor-made for the marine environment. As a group, they occupy prime positions in coastal ecosystems from Antarctica to the equator.

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