The penguin takes 10,000 naps daily

2023-11-30 20:06:19

Published on November 30, 2023 at 9:06 p.m. / Modified on November 30, 2023 at 9:30 p.m.

Is the author of these lines a little one-armed? A few years ago, we spent a good part of the night at the helm of a small sailboat in the Bay of Biscay. A night which turned out to be much less sleepless and more restful than expected, as it was punctuated by multiple micro-sleeps, lasting a few seconds but quickly interrupted by the need – reflex, fortunately – to react to the boat’s lurching in the breeze. “We know that sleep can be very fragmented in humans when there is a need for increased vigilance,” comments Paul-Antoine Libourel, sleep specialist at the Neuroscience Research Center in Lyon (France). But this can have a physiological cost in the long run. On the other hand, this does not seem to be the case in the penguin.”

This swimming bird is in the spotlight of works published in Science, which Paul-Antoine Libourel co-signed this week. In December 2019, on King George Island in Antarctica, the French scientist and a Korean colleague equipped around fifteen chinstrap penguins with data recorders – Pygoscelis antarctica – in a colony of 2700 pairs established near the Korean polar research station. A group living under the threat of the Antarctic skua, a fearsome flying bird predator that targets nests in search of eggs or chicks.

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