Chinstrap Penguins Nap For 4 Seconds … 10,000 Times a Day

Three chinstrap penguins, Orne Islands (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

4 December 2023

Lots of animals don’t sleep for long periods like we do but a new study has found a polar opposite in Antarctica (pun intended) where chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus) take 10,000 4-second naps each day during the breeding season. In this way they accrue 11 hours of daily sleep.

Adult chinstrap penguin with two chicks (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

For us, the micronaps would be a form of sleep torture since we cannot enter restorative deep sleep in such a short time. But the chinstrap penguins do.

Researchers led by Won Young Lee, a behavioral ecologist at the Korea Polar Research Institute, captured 14 penguins at the King Georges Island breeding colony and fitted them with data loggers to measure brain activity and accelerometers to record muscle movements and body positions. They also set up cameras to watch for closing eyes and drooping heads.

Partial range map of chinstrap penguin (map from Wikimedia Commons)

Brain waves showed the penguins experience slow wave (deep) sleep during those micro-naps. They nap while incubating or guarding their chicks and even while floating on the ocean.

Chinstrap penguin swimming at Deception Island (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

So now I’m looking at group photos of chinstrap penguins and, sure enough, in every photo some of the adults are sleeping. They’re getting their beauty rest 4 seconds at a time.

Read more in Science Magazine: This Antarctic penguin sleeps 11 hours a day—a few seconds at a time.

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