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To slide or stride: when should Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) toboggan?

Publication: Canadian Journal of Zoology
January 1991


We noted whether Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae), when travelling over snow, walked or tobogganed according to gradient, snow friction, or snow penetrability. Both walking and tobogganing penguins reduced stride length and stride frequency, and thus speed, with increasing uphill gradient although tobogganing birds travelled faster and with fewer leg movements. The incidence of tobogganing increased with decreasing friction between penguin and snow. The percentage of penguins tobogganing was also highly positively correlated with increasing snow penetrability. Penguins walking on soft snow must expend additional energy to pull their feet through the snow, whereas tobogganing birds do not sink. It is to be expected that Adélie penguins would utilize the most energetically favourable form of travel which, under almost all conditions, appeared to be tobogganing. Although tobogganing appears to be energetically more efficient than walking, rubbing the feathers over snow increases the coefficient of friction in unpreeened plumage. We propose that a high incidence of tobogganing necessitates increased feather care and that the decision whether to walk or toboggan probably represents a balance between immediate energy expenditure and subsequent energy and time expended maintaining plumage condition.


Nous avons cherché à déterminer si les Manchots d'Adélie (Pyqoscelis adeliae) qui se déplacent sur la neige marchent ou se laissent glisser en fonction de la pente, de la friction de la neige ou de sa pénétrabilité. Qu'ils marchent ou qu'ils se laissent glisser, les manchots réduisent la longueur et la fréquence de leurs pas, donc leur vitesse, en fonction de l'importance d'un gradient ascendant, bien que les manchots glisseurs se déplacent plus rapidement et en utilisant moins de mouvements de pattes. L'utilisation des glissades augmente lorsque la friction entre l'animal et la neige diminue. Le pourcentage de manchots glisseurs augmente considérablement en fonction de l'augmentation de la pénétrabilité de la neige. Les manchots qui marchent sur la neige molle doivent déployer beaucoup plus d'énergie, car ils doivent retirer leurs pattes de la neige, alors que les manchots glisseurs ne s'enfoncent pas. Il est logique de penser que les manchots utilisent toujours la forme la plus économique de déplacement qui semble, dans toutes les conditions, être l'utilisation de glissades. Bien que les glissades semblent plus avantageuses que la marche du point de vue énergétique, le frottement des plumes sur la neige augmente le coefficient de friction du plumage non lissé. Nous croyons que l'utilisation fréquente des glissades nécessite un toilettage plus intense des plumes et que la décision de marcher ou de glisser résulte probablement d'un compromis entre la dépense énergétique immédiate et la dépense d'énergie et de temps encourue plus tard dans l'entretien du plumage.[Traduit par la revue]

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cover image Canadian Journal of Zoology
Canadian Journal of Zoology
Volume 69Number 1January 1991
Pages: 221 - 225


Version of record online: 15 February 2011


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