So you’ve travelled back in time, 16 million year back to be exact, and landed on the continent that will become Antarctica. Stepping out of your time machine, you are stunned to see leafy green shrubbery, deer frolicking in the grass and not an iceberg in sight. A squawking erupts overhead and you look up just in time to see a flock of penguins land on the branches of a giant tree. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But scientists believe they have finally unlocked the key to explaining why modern penguins cannot fly; it’s all to do with evolution.
Prehistoric penguins hunted for food both on land and in the sea. There’s a reason planes don’t swim; swimming and flying require different muscles, bone structures and different amounts of energy. Food for penguins was more abundant in the sea, so they needed to spend more time swimming and diving, than they did flying, and their bodies began to evolve to make them the best divers they could possibly be. Scientists spent lots of time studying modern diving birds like guillemots and murres, and proved that, the better these birds are at diving, the harder they find it to fly. Basically, the best designed flippers, made the worst possible wings.