Research shows that chin-strap penguins take about ten thousand small naps per day. By sleeping briefly for eleven hours a day, they remain alert to enemies and can survive.
“People won’t stick with it,” says the lead researcher. “But penguins do.” During a nap, penguins can recover briefly, according to research published Thursday in the scientific journal Sciences.
Scientists have discovered that penguins on King George Island in Antarctica nap very briefly thousands of times a day. This allows them to monitor their nests almost continuously and protect their eggs and chicks from predators.
In chin-strap penguins, one parent sits in the nest for several days in a row, while the partner is away to feed. If they sleep longer, their eggs or young will become prey for other animals.
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At noon, the penguins fall into a deep sleep
Using electroencephalogram (EEG) – a measurement of brain waves – and video images, the number of times the animals closed their eyes and fell into sleep was counted. For example, penguins have been shown to have short periods of sleep. At noon they slept a little deeper. At that time of day there is less chance of an attack.
The penguins studied can sleep standing or lying down. It’s not yet clear whether penguins function optimally when they’re awake, but it certainly appears to be the case. Scientists stress that more large-scale research is needed.
Research on other animals has previously shown that some species sleep for very short periods of time without affecting their performance when awake. For example, African forest elephants sleep an average of two hours a day while standing. Sometimes they don’t sleep for two days.
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