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Science News: Chinstrap penguins: Masters of microsleeps

– K.J., Editor

Chinstrap penguins, nestled in Antarctica’s breeding colonies, have unveiled a unique sleep pattern marked by taking microsleeps, each lasting only about four seconds. Co-led by researchers P. A. Libourel and W. Y. Lee, a study in the December 1 of Science issue revealed that these penguins’ use this sleep strategy as a way to guard against possible threats. Since penguins have multiple predators, including brown skuas, leopard seals, orcas, and sharks, inattention due to lack of sleep can mean the difference between life and death.

To safeguard their offspring, chinstrap penguins maintain an extraordinary level of vigilance, even sleeping with only half of their brain at times. This strategy, while observed in other species, distinguishes these penguins with its sheer quantity of microsleeps, surpassing 10,000 brief sleeps daily. The study shows that penguins have a remarkable ability to balance the need for rest with the demands of parenting.

As we delve into the sleep behaviors of various species, the secrets of evolution and brain restoration continue to unfold, underscoring the diverse nature of the world of sleep. Just imagine, if a human were to take microsleeps per day instead of 8 hours every night, then we would need to take a 28-second nap about 1,000 times every day. If you had the choice, which would you choose?

Click here for the Japanese version.

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