Heat Transfer in Penguin Huddles

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Emperor penguins have several adaptations that allow them to survive the extreme Antarctic winter. Some of these adaptations are behavioral, such as huddling to reduce exposure and preserve body heat. While previous research has been done to estimate the metabolism of individual emperor penguins, these birds often group together, and thus less heat is lost than the equation suggests. The paper will focus on modeling a full penguin huddle where the penguins are exposed to ambient temperature and wind typical of Antarctica to see what spacing is necessary to maintain a typical body temperature and where the best place to stand in the huddle is. The numerical solver used in this report is COMSOL, a multiphysics modeling software that allows for a high degree of flexibility and accuracy. Each penguin is modeled as a 2-D circle with heat generation and insulation parameters determined by previous research. The penguin was copied 6,000 times to form a hexagonal huddle. The physics modeled are fluid flow and heat transfer in fluids and solids. We found that a spacing of between 0.8cm and 0.951cm allows the penguins in the penguin huddle to maintain the average body temperature of 38.2°C, the typical penguin body temperature (Le Maho, 1976). In addition, the optimal location of minimal heat loss was determined to be the middle towards the back. This simulation could allow for new insights and methods into research of how the huddling of the penguins preserves body heat and how changing conditions, due to climate change, could affect penguin behavior and survival in such a hostile environment.

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2020-05
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Penguin, Huddling, Numerical Model, COMSOL, Heat Transfer, Fluid Flow
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