As if their home in Antarctica weren’t cold enough, emperor penguins allow their exteriors to drop at least 7°F below their surroundings. The change helps the penguins stay warm, a recent paper showed. When the outer layer of feathers radiates heat to the sky, it becomes colder than its immediate environment, so heat flows back in. The cycle keeps the temperature underneath the plumage constant—and the penguin alive.
This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Popular Science.