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FEATURE ARTICLE

The Penguin's Palette: More Than Black and White

This stereotypically tuxedo-clad bird shows that evolution certainly can accessorize.

Daniel T. Ksepka

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Color is one of the most important adaptive traits, and one of the best ways to understand it is—improbably—to examine penguins, the quintessential black-and-white animal. The predominant patterns of penguins are accentuated by a subtle but enchanting assortment of colors running the gamut from bold golden yellows to sleek slate blues. A raft of recent research has revealed that penguins use a surprising array of mechanisms to create color in their beaks and feathers, and has even started piecing together the color patterns of fossil penguin species. Scientists are looking closely at penguins not only to learn more about these fascinating flightless divers, but also to better understand the patterns and boundaries of coloration evolution across all birds.




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