Penguins Cheat on the Treadmill, Just Like Us

Live a little.
Live a little. Photo: Junko Kimura

Everyone puts on weight when they’ve got a new boyfriend or girlfriend: So what, give me a break, it’s fun to eat nice meals with the person you love, especially to excess. You ever seen Lady and the Tramp? Rent it — I dare you.

While all our single pals would love to shame us for this added love pudge, we can take considerable consolation in knowing that king penguins (a delightful species who mate for life, aw) also find themselves putting on weight during the all-important courtship stage of their relationships. This is so that there can be enough fat reserves to hold them over while fasting as they take care of their egg. Yep, same.

Researchers from the University of London’s department of life sciences traveled to Antarctica to study the habits of king penguins, and learned very quickly that these cute guys are a lot more like us than we thought. Head researcher Astrid Willener plopped some of the newly fat penguins on a treadmill, and learned that fatter penguins had more trouble staying upright than their slimmer counterparts, which makes it easier for them to be preyed upon. Been there!

But even that information — we have a harder time walking after three double-cheeseburgers — wasn’t the closest similarity. Many of the king penguins, when being tested on the treadmill by UCL researchers, found a way around this newly instituted exercise. Willener told The Guardian, “Once the speed is set, the penguin usually can walk fluently. But an individual that is not able to walk straight away on a treadmill is difficult to train. Sometimes the penguins were lazy and ‘water-skied’ on the treadmill by leaning their back on the back wall of the treadmill. That is obviously not good for the data collection.”

Anyway, here’s a funny vid.