By Darryl Budge
Ice is extremely dangerous, both to airplane speed and to penguins dwelling in sub-zero environments, but it is never a problem for cold-climate penguins.
UCLA Professor Pirouz Kavehpour has identified the penguin's "superhydrophobic" features that could be translated to airplane speed sensors, wings, flaps and rudders.1
Engineers also want to improve existing chemical de-icing compounds that are expensive, non-biodegradable and time-consuming.
In their pre-existing genetic information cold-dwelling penguins survive through two remarkable features that prevent water and therefore ice from sticking to their body. Under an electron scanning microscope Kavenhour noticed that tiny pores in their feathers trap air so that water cannot soak into their fur.
Secondly, penguins expel a remarkable oil from a gland near the base of their tail, which coats their feathers so that water droplets bead up and become spherical. Since these water beads barely touch the feather they will easily roll off or be shaken off.
In the beginning God designed the genetic code of the ancestor of modern penguins to have the gene information necessary to flourish in both warm and cold climates. For the same reason interrelated bears and interrelated dogs survive in opposite climate extremes.
Some penguins today inhabit the very warm Galápagos Islands, very near to the equator. They also once lived in Peru as two fossilized penguin skeletons measuring 1.5m tall were unearthed there in 2007.?
1. Flight engineers are (ironically) taking tips from penguins, interestingengineering.com, 26 November 2015.