Emperor penguin, Antarctic, up to 1.2 m (4 ft) tall The emperor penguin is the largest and heaviest species of penguin, growing up to 1.2 metres (4 feet) tall. It is the only species of penguin to breed during the Antarctic winter. The male protects the egg on top of its feet throughout the coldest months of winter while the female goes off to feed. Graceful swimmers, emperors gets about on the ice by sliding on their bellies. The emperor's diet consists chiefly of fish, but also krill and squid. Its tongue has rear-facing barbs on its surface to prevent prey from slipping out when caught. It can stay under water for up to 20 minutes, sometimes diving to depths of 565 metres (1850 feet) seeking food. The emperor penguin's feathers, together with a thick layer of fat under its skin, provide most of the protection it needs from the cold. Muscles hold the feathers erect when on land, trapping a layer of air next to the skin, giving additional insulation.
Emperor penguins are the only penguins to breed during the Antarctic winter. They mate in May after a long march from the sea to their inland breeding sites. Emperors have only one mate each year, and stay faithful to that mate—but usually only for that year.
Each female lays a single egg, which she passes to the male to care for. The transfer is quite an awkward process. If it is dropped at any point, the chick inside the egg will die, as it cannot withstand the freezing temperature of the ice for more than a few seconds. The egg has a relatively thick shell for this reason. Once the egg is handed over, the female returns to the sea to feed over the winter.
Emperor penguins can dive to 565 m (1850 ft) under water—deeper than any other bird.
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