Shoving a bunch of fat penguins on to treadmills to monitor how weight influences their funny walk sounds like a dream sequence from a strange a cartoon. But it’s actually a real scientific study that’s just been published.
Many penguins stock up on fish to forma a fatty coat to survive the cold—which is great in the water, but apparently causes some problems on land. Researchers had noticed that fatter penguins sometimes struggled to remain upright, their extra padding making it difficult to walk elegantly.
So they did what any inquisitive mind would: They took some penguins and put them on a treadmill. In a new paper published in PLOS One, the team explains how it had a series of penguins walk on treadmills at 0.75 miles per hour (the gif above is sped up). Turns out that fatter penguins seems to lean in to their walk more, causing them to wobble—and fall—more easily.
Maybe they need treadmills out in the wild to work a little of the padding off.